Writer: Nakkiah Lui
Director: Paige Ratray
Sydney Theatre Company
I really enjoyed this show at the Sydney Theatre Company, which has had mixed responses from critics and audiences. I can understand why, as it’s primarily a romantic comedy and turns the usual tropes of race discussion on its head.
Instead of the usual theatre looking at rural Aborigines, it’s set in middle-class Australia and is the story of a white musician Francis, who lives on a stipend from his rich family, his father Dennison (Geoff Morrell) and mother Marie (Vanessa Dowling).
His fiancée, Charlotte (Shari Sebbens), is Aboriginal and a lawyer who’s not sure where her life is heading. Her parents are also very rich, with her father Ray (Tony Briggs) an ex-politician and mother Joan (Melodie Reynolds-Diarra) who has the real power and basically writes all his speeches.
Add to this mix Charlotte’s sister Rose (Kylie Bracknell Kaarljilba Kaardn), a successful international designer and her ex-footy player husband Sunny (Anthony Taufa). The play also has a narrator (Luke Carroll).
They all come together at Christmas and fall into conflict. It’s discovered that the two fathers were both politicians, but from different sides. We also learn Marie is looking to explore her fluid sexuality, and Charlotte plans to move to New York with Francis and Sunny, who’s discovered religion.
This is all played out very broadly on a great set designed by Renee Mulder and is genuinely funny. But it’s the inversion of the racial politics that makes the play so wonderful.
Some of the audience misread this and thought the play was racist while others thought it was just wrong. I thought it was clever and covered many, many issues. It was great fun while traversing race-related issues.
The playwright, Nakkiah Lui, is certainly developing into a major force in theatre, as well as being a major force in racial politics.
I cannot finish without mentioning Orb at The Sydney Dance Company. Another triumph of strength and beauty from Artistic Director Rafael Bonachela. And Big Fish at The Hayes Theatre was a good production of a show that had previously flopped on Broadway.