By Caitlin McGrane
Nakkiah Lui’s searing portrait of white Australia’s treatment of Aboriginal people, Blaque Showgirls, is vital viewing for all white people. In this production, Lui does not shy away from intensely uncomfortable subjects, but her punchlines always hit their target.
The show opens as Sarah Jane (Bessie Holland) starts performing her signature dance, the Peking Emu on stage in Chithole, Queensland. Sarah Jane is a white-skinned ‘blaque’ girl who dreams of making it as a dancer at the famous Blaque Showgirls show in Brisvegas, just like her mother. With a voice that could shatter glass, and dance moves that would not be out of place in any reputable club in Melbourne, Sarah Jane is unceremoniously booed offstage. Sarah Jane makes the journey to Brisvegas to begin her journey to stardom, where she meets the amazing Chandon (Elaine Crombie), Kyle McLaughlan (Guy Simon), and Molly (Emi Canavan). Chandon and Kyle are the owners of Blaque Showgirls, the best and toughest show in town; Molly meanwhile is Sarah Jane’s Japanese sidekick who gets continually cut off when she’s talking. As Sarah Jane (aka Ginny) begins to work on her dancing with TruLove Interest (spelling: uncertain, Guy Simon) she starts to discover her true culture through the ‘Sacred, Sacred Really Sacred Dance’ (never-before-seen).
By the end of the performance my face hurt from laughing so much. Director Sarah Giles has worked magic with Lui’s exceptional script, and with it the duo has delivered something truly outstanding – the production perfectly skewers Australia’s bonkers and backwards attitudes to race and cultural appropriation, while Ginny continues to wreak havoc and destruction on the lives of those around her, her life continues to get better and better. Even finding out the truth about her past fills her with unconscionable optimism.
The production is completed with wonderful set and costume design from Eugyeene Teh, lighting design from Paul Jackson, composition & sound design from Jed Palmer, and movement direction from Ben Graetz. The team obviously have a tremendous passion for the subject matter, which left me deeply sympathetic to the tiny bumps in the production, which should be ironed out once the cast gets further into the show’s run.
There is so much more I wish I could say about Blaque Showgirls, but you should just go see it, especially if you’re white.
Blaque Showgirls is now on at the Malthouse until 4 December 2016. More information and tickets at: http://malthousetheatre.com.au/whats-on/blaque-showgirls
Image by Pia Johnson