Role reversal

BLACK is the New White is a rom-com that looks at Australian indigenous issues though the lens of humour.

The play follows the exploits of Ray Gibson (Tony Briggs), a retired politician who started out as an Aboriginal activist.

He and wife Joan enjoy a cosy, upper middle class retirement, and his only daughter Charlotte (Miranda Tapsell) has a brilliant career ahead of her in politics.

Dad even reckons she could be the next female indigenous Waleed Aly.

But Charlotte has other ideas, and when she brings her fiancé Francis Smith (Tom Stokes) and his family to Christmas lunch, things get hilariously out of control.

Not only is Francis an unemployed, experimental composer–he’s white.

Adding to the simmering tensions, his dad Dennison Smith (Geoff Morrell) is a retired conservative pollie who once locked horns with Ray in parliament.

The play, penned by award winning playwright Nakkiah Lui, is a cross between Meet the Fockers and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, with plenty of Australian larrikinism.

WA actor Melodie Reynolds-Diarra plays Charlotte’s mother Joan Gibson like an Aboriginal Katherine Hepburn.

• Melodie Reynolds-Diarra, Geoff Morrell and Tony Briggs ham it up in Black is the New White. Photo by Prudence Upton


“My character has a bit of that,” Ms Reynolds-Diarra laughs. “She is wise and drops real truths about values.

“Whether black or white we all have those values, but she knows how to laugh.”

Ms Reynolds-Diarra, also a scriptwriter (Skylab), reckons the play comes at indigenous issues from a fresh perspective.

“Comedy is the perfect way to get across to people willing to absorb issues and opinions that come through. It doesn’t have to be the same sad story told again.”

Paige Rattray, associate director of Sydney Theatre Company, directs Black is the New White, and composer Steve Toulmin provides the toe-tapping soundtrack.

The show proves love is never just black and white, but complicated by class, politics, ambition and too much wine over dinner.

Black is the New White is at the State Theatre in Perth until September 22.


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