Posts Tagged ‘Renee Mulder


Black Is The New White


Black Is The New White

Queensland Theatre presents a

Sydney Theatre Company production

QPAC Playhouse

February 3 – 17 2018


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward



Two politically powerful families at war. A son and daughter helplessly in love, defying their parents. You’ve heard this story before – but what if Romeo was white, Juliet was black and the war mainly fought on Twitter?


“It’s about a successful Aboriginal family called the Gibsons who are activists and very proud to be Aboriginal and who also happen to be quite financially successful,” Lui says. “Their youngest daughter, Charlotte, is just back from being in Europe for three-and-a-half months and she’s bringing home her boyfriend for the first time – he’s white and a poor, struggling musician who also happens to be the son of her father’s arch nemesis. “It’s kind of what happens when you get together with family over Christmas – you laugh, you fight and you talk about all the things you’re not meant to talk about in a very intimate and flippant way.” – Nakkiah Lui


Nakkiah Lui’s script is razor-sharp in its unbridled observations of race and human nature, and Paige Rattray’s precision production is masterfully handled, fast-paced, funny and highly entertaining. There’s a dance break AND a dance off AND a food fight! I wonder what this work would look like, sound like, without Rattray’s light hand? The characters are heightened, delightful and painful, completely believable, (mis)behaving exactly as our family members (mis)behave at Christmas, and the sense of the work is at first light-handed, hilarious. But don’t think that means you won’t cringe at times, faced with your own pre-conceived notions and beliefs. Is this just a mirror of Australian contemporary society or a hammer to shape it? No stone is left unturned, with each character either delving into or narrowly avoiding addressing the misconceptions surrounding the mistreatment of our Indigenous peoples, privilege, gender roles, rich vs poor, cultural sterotypes, the courage of individuals and the common interests of communities – and sparking bold conversations around the emergence of an Aboriginal middle-class and the re-rise of a feminism that sees an older generation of women – Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal – claiming their sexual identities and political ideas.


Unless you’re at a Williamson, you might not think it possible to pack such a wealth of material into 2 hours and 20 minutes of theatre, and yet there it is, and with deep insight, the off-hand and humorous remarks hitting hard, getting under our skin and challenging everything we think is Australian. Human.



Luke Carroll (the Spirit of Christmas disguised as the Narrator) is probably the least essential element, and tells us more than we need to know, particularly in the second act. His performance though is highly entertaining, and I come to love his omnipresence and subtle interactions with the family members. However, it must be said that Carroll’s perfectly clipped consonants are either the stuff of over articulated nightmares, or that he’s the very model of a trained-within-an-inch-of-his-life stage actor (no comment on his screen performances, which have been well received, earning him Deadly Awards and a Bob Maza Fellowship). This is not to be unkind, but to make a point: Carroll is excellent and can afford to employ a more relaxed vocal style. Once the initial nerves/disparate energy of opening night disappear there’s not one amongst this stellar cast whose performance misses the mark. Comic timing is spot on, beautifully crafted by Lui and polished by Rattray, leaving us in no doubt of the fun and playfulness of the creative process.


Tony Briggs (Ray Gibson) and Geoff Morrell (Dennison Smith) narrowly avoid playing political enemies for laughs, and leave us in horrified hysterics from the outset of their ongoing sandbox dispute. Briggs brings particular wit and wry humour to this role, which could just as easily have turned into caricature.



Melodie Reynolds-Diarra, as wife, Joan, reaches our hearts on multiple levels. It’s she who has penned her husband’s speeches, and she finally feels she deserves some recognition for her part in his story. Vanessa Downing as Dennison’s wife also steps up at a crucial moment, demanding that her life preferences be respected.



Miranda Tapsell joined this cast for the Brisbane season, and she brings hilarious headstrong energy to Rose, the millennial entrepreneurial sister of Charlotte (Shari Sebbens, straight up and sensational) and wife of Sonny (Anthony Taufa, in his element here), as does Tom Stokes as Francis, the (wonderfully awkward!) struggling artist and fiancé of Charlotte.


Renee Mulder’s stunning design, beautifully enhanced by Ben Hughes’ lighting, is a pristine playground for these Christmas shenanigans, with Steve Toulmin’s soundtrack an easy invitation to simply enjoy the ride….for now.


This crafty contemporary farce – poised for a film option – has a strictly limited Brisbane run. See it, and join the conversation.


Production pics by Prudence Upton




Queensland Theatre

Queensland Theatre Bille Brown Studio

June 24 – July 16 2017


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward


Tini biyoyer sathei aasen. She moves with victory. Tini biyoyer sathei aasen. She moves…

Rice is the Queensland Premier’s Drama Award winner (2016), a slick and sophisticated two-hander about women, ambition, power, partnerships, love, loss, loyalty, forgiveness and family. Melbourne’s Michele Lee says, “Initially I said Rice was about a plethora of ‘big’ contemporary issues. As if I was some Michael Moore of theatre. Mass agriculture. Super economies. Mercenary corporations. Women in business. Rice is about these things. But it’s partly, primarily, about two women searching for new friendships and new intimacies, new versions of family, however fleeting.”

Lee’s writing is refreshingly real; her characters are recognisable and relatable. The dialogue is fast, funny, and unapologetically localised, a delight for Brisbane audiences, peppered with references to familiar places. Leading ladies, Kirsty Best (Nisha) and Hsiao-Ling Tang (Yvette) also play the incidental characters who come in and out of their lives, including the boss, the boyfriend, the bogan, an Indian widow, a nephew, a daughter… The first of these transitions is a little uncertain but once established, these switches work well, making this play a tidy little touring number. 

Renee Mulder’s sleek, white minimal corporate office set and Jason Glenwright’s bright, spare lighting keep the focus on the performers, who step into a natural rhythm that allows them an easy banter and yet, appropriately uncomfortable silences at times to underpin a few home truths about the world views of the Indian Princess and the Chinese Cleaner.

This is the part of the story where I tell you about an Indian princess.

Nisha (Indian Princess) is a typical young thing in a navy suit who knows everything, until it’s revealed that she doesn’t. Both her undoing and the making of her is her ability to see things for what they really are. Yvette is the Chinese Cleaner who has been bettered all her immigrant life by others, including extended family members. She continues to struggle to maintain a civil relationship with her daughter. Both women have a clear picture of where they’d like to be and they think they know how they’ll get there. But life – a death, a flood, a legal battle – gets in the way and other things along the way become important again.

This is the part where we eat.

There is a delicate balance in the writing between the vulnerability and intimacy of the women’s working relationship and the apparently unavoidable distance – a chasm, in this life at least – between them. This is beautifully measured in the performances when the women are playing their main roles.

Director, Griffin Theatre’s Lee Lewis, has created on the 20th floor of Nisha’s inner city office building, a microcosm of contemporary society, placing the personal worlds of the women squarely inside the bigger global picture. They can’t escape or dismiss the personal. They can’t ignore a connection with another human being and continue to complain about not being noticed or supported…or deeply affected. The women must always, in some small way, be there for each other.

Great theatre allows us to see ourselves in the story. Lee’s universal story of connection, shared via a personal, local lens, doesn’t condescend or compromise or get in its own way.

Its humour, insight and wonderfully engaging personable performances make Rice a lovely easy play to watch. The challenge is in walking away and making the tiny daily changes to the way we do things. Because we can. And we must; ignorance is no longer an excuse for the ill treatment of people in our immediate circles (or outside of them). Was it ever? How often do we consider the way we go about our day? How do we speak to our loved ones, our colleagues, strangers and friends we haven’t met yet? How do we choose to respond to others? How do we choose to treat others, in business and in life? On the train? At the checkout? In our homes and schools and offices? In the street? Can we go forward now, into every situation, with genuine curiosity, dignity and compassion? Can we just take a breath, half a moment, before uttering anything aloud or online to consider the impact it might have on a person? And how far, really, is too far out of our way to give a person a lift home?

Through the strong, vulnerable, wonderful women of Rice Michele Lee asks these vital questions with the utmost respect, and with greater wit and good humour than most.

This is the part where we go.


Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats of Loneliness

An Interview with actor, Lindsay Farris

Lindsay Farris. Photo by Al Caeiro

Can you tell us a bit about this amazing show and your role in it?

Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats of Loneliness is an ‘amazing’ work in the very sense of the word. It is a play that really opens up the imagination through theatrically immersive storytelling in both naturalistic and surrealistic territories. To delve into those places of heightened narrative headfirst, as audiences and artistic collaborators, I think is something really spectacular, frequently hilarious and intensely thought provoking. I play Nicholas Ludd, the revolutionary new wave theatrical realist who acts as a counterpoint for much of the main narrative, whilst also acting as an enabler for scenes that depart into heightened theatricality.

Brisbane audiences are very excited about the Romance Was Born designed costumes, which are crucial to the show. Has the design of the costumes had an impact on the way you’ve approached character development or the telling of the tale? Did characters inform any of the costume designs? 

We were very fortunate that, pretty much since day one of rehearsals, we were given the opportunity to work with our costumes. Costuming is something that is usually left until well into the rehearsal process, or even a few days before opening, so it was a real gift to have their ideas since day dot. We had opportunities early on to engage with the design process as part of a workshop where we essentially let our imaginations run wild with the text and the worlds we might explore, and Romance Was Born and Renée Mulder have been incredible vessels for getting the play off the page and into the world. In such an imaginative piece of writing, any physical actualisation of those ideas as part of wardrobe, props or set design makes the process really exciting in seeing those ideas realised by another collaborator’s vision. I think the artists and designers inform each other, but the base work always comes from the script.

Lindsay Farris, Sarah Goodes. Photo by Al Caeiro

You’ve done so much now on screen, what is it about the theatre that keeps bringing you back to the stage?

I don’t ever really feel like I left! I’ve been working professionally on stage for about eleven years now, starting with a tour of the UK with the NSW State Drama Company. My creative engine room came from the theatre. The experiment that is a rehearsal process allows the discovery and exploration of a world of ideas that are then refined and transformed into a communion with an audience. It’s a real gift to be part of a storytelling process on screen, but even more so when you’re there in person to do it on stage.

Has the rehearsal process been particularly different or difficult in any way? Can you tell us about working with this cast and with Director, Sarah Goodes?

As I mentioned, it’s been really great to have a lot of the design with us since the first day of rehearsals, which has been a nice change from the usual. I think our real challenge in the rehearsal period has just been to set free the myriad ideas that are explored in the amazing feats. I think that’s all a rehearsal process ever is: to release and refine story in ways that are accessible, challenging, thought-provoking and invigorating. Sarah and the cast are incredible, and every day I really look forward to being part of such an awesome group of collaborators. I think one of the most challenging components for me so far has been to try and learn the accordion for the show. I hadn’t picked one up before rehearsals started, and we had a moment that went something like: “I reckon this bit would sound great on the accordion,” so we got one!

Artistic Director of La Boite, David Berthold, has said he finds this production “fantastically invigorating”. How do you think Brisbane audiences will respond?

 I think that this play asks that an audience open their hearts and minds to a world of imagination. It’s the sort of play that you experience and have an immediate relationship to. All of the people I know that have read it have felt invigorated in some way, and to see it in action with two exceptional theatre companies uniting is an opportunity to be in the theatre when it is at its least boring and most thought-provoking.

Emily Tomlins and Lindsay Farris. Photo by Al Caeiro

You created the National Youth Theatre Company (NYTC) to nurture young performing arts talent and give them a head start in the industry. Can you tell us how the company is going and what immediate and long-term plans you have for it?

NYTC is currently completing a documentary on young actors, as part of its most recent production season. It’s a pretty incredible project being filmed by Sunny Abberton (Bra Boys) that involves about 70 actors, over 150 staff and a team of incredible creatives that brought our most recent production to life. NYTC regularly offer development opportunities for regional and metropolitan people under the age of 25, most of which are designed to develop skills set for acting, creating and producing their own works. We have spent a lot of time this year developing relationships with a number of companies in Los Angeles and India for co-productions and representation and development for our artists.

We have been really fortunate in that NYTC has been incredibly well received by the theatrical, youth and education communities in seeking to develop emerging Australian artists. The next evolution of NYTC will see further expansion into QLD and the NT, as well as the development of some really exciting projects for cultural development in regional communities.

What advice do you have for Brisbane actors wanting to make it in our theatre and film industries?

I think that the sheer drive to tell accessible stories, and to tell them well, intrinsically sums up making work happen in theatre and film. The drive to tell stories means that limitations in work opportunities are always secondary to the ability to create work and learn new ways to create stories. Sustenance in this industry comes from the journey as much as the arriving.

What’s next for you?

I have a book that is finally on the verge of completion called A young actor’s guide to becoming a Wanker. My editor called me the other week and asked for the next draft, so getting that submitted is my next project. Following that I have a production and development season with the National Youth Theatre Company, with a few other projects penciled in for the end of the year, so once they’ve wrapped maybe a little bit of a rest somewhere sunny?

Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats of Loneliness La Boite season 14 May – 12 June Bookings