Powerful take on black history
Nakkiah Lui’s Black is the New White was a sell-out success for Sydney Theatre Company, and now she’s back with Blackie Blackie Brown: The Traditional Owner of Death.
Inspired by superhero and Blaxploitation films, it combines live action with projection, illustration and anime to create an extraordinary theatrical event.
Dr Jacqueline Black (Megan Wilding) is an Aboriginal archaeologist working on a dig in the Australian bush. Discovering a mass grave, she picks up a skull. Immediately, she is seized by a strange power as her great-great-grandmother (Elaine Crombie in projection) tells her about the brutal massacre of their community and orders her to kill all 400 descendants of the men who murdered them. Vigilante Blackie Blackie Brown is born. But as she sets about her task, killing freely no matter who the fated descendants are, she has moral qualms.
Lui does a great job of using the graphic style to nail the story, with just two live actors — Wilding and Ash Flanders.
Wilding nails the transition from mild archaeologist to fierce superhero.
Flanders, meanwhile, dazzles with his passing parade of characters, most of whom end up deceased.
The play is staged on a plain white set, which becomes a screen, while various trap doors form different scenarios.
Brilliantly directed by Declan Greene, the production team have all done sensational work.
Based on an original concept by Emily Johnson, the design by Elizabeth Gadsby, animation and video by Oh Yeah Wow, pumping music by Steve Toulmin, lighting by Verity Hampson, and fight direction by Nigel Poulton all pack the right punch, with the live action blending seamlessly with the animation.
Blackie Blackie Brown has a sinister tone but it is also extremely funny with much to say about colonisation and responsibility for the past.
But for all the splattered blood and gung-ho action, the most horrifying moment is when Dr Black’s ancestor speaks through her to tell us quietly about the massacre of her family — it’s something you won’t forget.
Megan Wilding in Blackie Blackie Brown.