Pow­er­ful take on black his­tory

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - INSIDER -

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.

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