In retro-pop terms, if Nakkiah Lui’s Black is the New White is her Ebony and Ivory, then Blackie Blackie Brown: Traditional Owner of Death is her Fear of a Black Planet.
This is Lui’s sense of humour weaponised and aimed straight at the soft liberal underbelly.
Riffing on superhero origins stories and revenge movies, Blackie Blackie Brown charts the transformation of Dr Jacqueline Brown (Megan Wilding, making her Sydney Theatre Company debut) from mild-mannered archaeologist to unstoppable black angel of death after she absorbs the spirit of her great-great-grandmother from a skull discovered in a mass grave.
Jacqueline, now Blackie Blackie Brown, is charged with incredible powers and a mission: to murder the 400 descendants of the perpetrators of the massacre in the space of one lunar cycle.
Whether they are robe-wearing members of a local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan or bleeding heart liberals, Blackie Blackie Brown shows no mercy. One way or another, their “white meat is cooked”.
Directed by Declan Greene (Calpurnia Descending), the show rattles along in propulsive, frame-by-frame style.
Projected animations by artist Emily Johnson (in cahoots with digital content makers Oh Yeah Wow) are cleverly used to whip the storyline into the realms of Jacqueline’s ancestors and from location to location as her rampage unfolds. They also provide the necessary ZAP! and POW!! for the fight sequences.
Numerous trapdoors in Elizabeth Gadsby’s Advent calendar-like stage design allow for surprise incursions and exits. The interface between live and digital action is a goldmine of slapstick and meta-theatrical gags.
Wilding is terrific. This is her first top billing after making a strong impression with smaller roles (in Belvoir’s The Rover, for example) and she carries the show with ease. She has comic chops to burn and the dramatic skills to check out of the mayhem and deliver an unflinching monologue that is this show’s punch to the gut.
Flanders provides excellent fly-in-fly-out support in a dozen or more roles, the most significant being a fork-tongued politician and the delightfully daffy descendent of a murderer who escapes BBB’s razor-edged boomerang only to die as a volunteer human firewall.
There are enjoyable video spots from newsreaders Amelia Adams and Hugh Riminton and actor Luke Carroll. The mellifluous Peter Carroll voices Brown’s malfunctioning computer sidekick and target-acquisition system A.C.O.O.N.
Much of the interplay between the digital and the theatrical is novel and excellent, particularly that featuring a sassy Elaine Crombie as Jacqueline’s great-great-grandmother. Other sequences, while graphically inventive, outstay their purpose, however.
There’s a sizeable flat spot in a long sequence devoted to the hunting down of a racist Brisbane cop and the climax of the play, featuring a giant pair of inflatable testicles, is a lot less funny than you imagine it could be.
Blackie Blackie Brown is fierce and funny but it’s a 90 minute show with 70-minutes of weapons-grade material.