Nakkiah Lui’s smash hit, incisive romantic comedy Black is the New White has won the Nick Enright Prize for Playwriting at this year’s NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. The Nick Enright Prize recognises a play or music drama that is first premiered in Australia, and comes with a $30,000 cash prize for the playwright. Centring on a disastrous dinner, Black is the New White explores Indigenous identity and how it interacts with and is shaped by class, as well as the complexities of contemporary Indigenous and white relations.
In her acceptance speech, delivered by her mother as Lui was overseas, she says “I wrote Black is the New White because I wanted to show love and laughter. I wanted people to see Aboriginal people on a stage who aren’t characters from history, whose experiences aren’t excusable as being of the period. I wanted to show Aboriginal people who are of the now. Who, above being Aboriginal, are people. People that, when watched by the audience, are just like them.
The cast of Sydney Theatre Company’s Black is the New White, 2017. Photo © Prudence Upton
“I’ve been taught the personal is political. My parents practiced this every day, and my grandparents. Their ability to create love out of discrimination, to give hope from oppression, allowed me to write this play that I hope gives people love and promise. In the words of Joan, from the play, ‘Values aren’t people and if we forget about people, our victories become our vices in a heartbeat.’”
Commissioned and first staged by Sydney Theatre Company in 2017 and receiving a return season earlier this year, Black is the New White has been a favourite with audiences. Limelight gave it four and a half stars upon its premiere, with Angus McPherson writing, “Black is the New White is a wonderfully quick-witted, sharp-as-a-tack Australian Rom Com with a lot of heart that keeps the audience laughing – or gasping – all the way.”
Lui’s newest play, Blackie Blackie Brown: The Traditional Owner of Death, will have its world premiere at STC in May.