By Nakkiah Lui
Directed by Anthea Williams
Nakkiah Lui is a Gamilaroi and Torres Strait Islander playwright who last year had a stunning impact with her play about the Mt Druitt riots This Heaven.
It was a wonderful in-your-face look at the difficult position that suburban Aboriginal people find themselves in. Her new play is a compelling story, again set in western Sydney, of five lives, including her own. It again raises the question of why we allow the bad treatment of our indigenous peoples to continue.
This short play punches a real impact on its audience as Nakkiah, playing herself, tells the intersecting stories of the five characters while occasionally breaking out of the play to tell us about herself. In an early scene while having sex with boyfriend Peter (Sam O’Sullivan) she stops and tells us she was hoping the role would be played by Miranda Tapsell.
The play opens with Paul (Lasarus Ratuere) in a drunken state of grief, carrying a rope. He and his sister Harley (Katie Beckett) argue about money and a ring he can hock to purchase drugs and alcohol. He is obviously in utter despair and we find that his is the story that Nakkiah has been trying to tell but it has been interrupted by her own story.
Paul has died by hanging himself in the park and Nakkiah’s beloved grandmother has died after a fall through the termite-infested floorboards of her house despite the family’s almost daily complaints to the Aboriginal Housing Office (one of its names) for more than a year.
Nakkiah’s grandmother dies three months after the fall. In the meantime Harley goes to the hospital in a rage to pick up Paul’s things and takes out her anger on the nurse who was on duty Alex (Mathew Backer). Nakkiah also has an encounter with Paul (or did she invent it?) and thus the play continues as a look at institutionalised racism. Despite the subject matter the play is very funny: once, relating an argument she had had with her mother, she tells Peter they had a Mexican standoff and asks, “Is that racist?”. This was a wonderful production with good performances and has left me still thinking about it. Here is a new playwright to keep an eye on.