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Highlights

"Expect no punches pulled"

Diversity advocate Bali Padda trawls the mainstage seasons and picks the must-sees from theatre companies putting People of Colour front and centre in 2018.

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Mainstage In Living Colour (Do Not Adjust Your Set)

Date: 19 Feb 2018

“Representation matters.

You’ve probably heard these two words quite a bit lately.

Us diversity advocates have been saying this since the beginning of our cultural colonisation of theatre spaces.

Someone reading this list, might wonder: “Why didn’t this Bali Padda guy include [insert play here] with its really diverse cast?”

For sure, we’re starting to see an increase in the numbers of Team Invisible on our stages and screens. But what’s been lacking are the voices from diverse backgrounds as the cultural creators in Australian professional mainstages.

So, today we’re celebrating those shows that are speaking as and speaking to the historically underrepresented on our mainstage theatres.

Single Asian Female

After a hit premiere season with Brisbane’s La Boite Theatre Company last year, Michelle Law’s Single Asian Female graces the Belvoir Upstairs stage.

Set on the Sunshine Coast, the play is an intimate and hilarious look into the life of Pearl (played by Hsiao-Ling Tang), a middle-aged Chinese restaurateur and mother to Wei (Courtney Stewart), a teenager suffering the angst of trying to fit in and finding her own identity, and Zoe (Alex Lee), a 20-something classical musician and family peace-maker trying to make it in a white Australian patriarchal society.

Developed through the Lotus Asian-Australian Playwriting project by Playwriting Australia and Contemporary Asian Australian Performance (formerly Performance 4a), the play is being celebrated as the first Australian mainstage play with three Asian female leads.

Black is the New White

Nakkiah Lui is probably the most sought-after young playwright in the country and it’s no surprise to see Sydney Theatre Company reviving her hit comedy at IPAC (Wollongong), in the flagship Roslyn Packer Theatre, Riverside Theatres Parramatta and the Canberra Theatre Centre.

Billed as a hilarious take on love, race and family politics, STC has made a smart (and commercial) decision to bring this one back.

Going Down

Michele Lee has proven her knack for top-notch playwriting by scoring the Queensland Premier’s Drama Award for her debut play Rice, a La Boite/Griffin Theatre Company offering in 2017.

Set in millenial Australia and accidentally autobiographical, Going Down is a promising follow-up. Natalie Yang (played by Catherine Davies) has written a memoir about her sex life. Think Sex and the City. In Melbourne. And everyone’s not white.

Going Down is about the real life responses and attitudes to Lee’s own memoir (Banana Girl, published in 2014) and struggling with the expectation of having to explain her cultural heritage whenever she puts pen to paper.

According to Lee, “…[I]t’s part of an immaturity that Australia still has – people from migrant communities are expected to tell stories that are representative of that experience. In Going Down, I wanted to explore that further: what do people want from an Asian woman writing a memoir?”

Blackie Blackie Brown: The Traditional Owner of Death 

Nakkiah Lui unleashes a superheroine/vigilante imbued with power from her Aboriginal ancestors to exact revenge on the descendants of the white men who massacred her great-great grandmother’s family.

A low-fi, high-camp production filled with countless characters (played by two performers, Ash Flanders and Megan Wilding), Blackie Blackie Brown is staged as a live comic book story.

Expect no punches pulled when Lui deals with Australia’s brutal colonial history.

Stolen

After a successful season in National Theatre of Parramatta’s inaugural 2016 season, Stolen earns a brief Parramatta season ahead of a NSW-wide tour.

Jane Harrison’s work originally premiered in 1998 and now Stolen has been reworked by director Vicki Van Hout into a current interpretation of this provoking story of five children’s experience of loss and search for love in the absence of their families.

The Girl / The Woman

National Theatre of Parramatta revealed itself in 2016 as a theatre company determined to put the real face of the nation on stage. In 2018, it unveils a new double-bill from theatre maker Aanisa Vylet.

Semi-autobiographical, The Girl/The Woman follows two generations of Arab-Muslim Australian women from the same family, from different generations, struggling to accept the past and embrace the future as The Girl finds her sexual awakening and The Woman tries to guide herself into becoming a good young Arab-Muslim woman in a contemporary Australia.

The Long Forgotten Dream

South Australia-based H Lawrence Sumner has a long list of directing credits in theatre, and it’s exciting to hear his voice as a playwright in this world premiere production by Sydney Theatre Company.

Directed by Neil Armfield and starring Wayne Blair, The Long Forgotten Dream is a multi-generational family historical story set in a rural community and is inspired by true stories of the repatriation of stolen Indigenous body parts.

I feel like I’m gonna be left in my seat after seeing the show needing some long deep breaths. Can’t wait.

random

A one-woman drama set in London, debbie tucker green’s random tells the story of the killing of a black schoolboy. Zahra Newman calls upon her chameleonic powers to switch between a plethora of roles representing family, street and community as ordinary lives are thrown into chaos when one of their own is involved in a brutal knife attack.

Reading about this, I discovered that random was originally performed in an empty shop in Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre. I used to live two blocks away from that dingy mall, with rubbish blowing down the corridors of mostly closed shops.

Leticia Cáceres directs and I’m anticipating a sensory visit back to South London in Belvoir’s Downstairs theatre later this year.”

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