Nakkiah Lui is approaching identity politics and cultural appropriation with a side of 'Peking Emu' and a sparkly dot painting jumpsuit in her latest play Blaque Showgirls.
Well known for her witty and incisive observations, Lui (Black Comedy, Blak Cabaret) wrote the play around the time of the Rachel Dolezal scandal, a white American woman who identified as African American, wanting to explore objectification, oppression and what it means to identify as 'anything'.
Starring Bessie Holland as Ginny, a fair skinned 'blaque' woman, whose dream is to make it as the top showgirl in the clubs of 'Brisvegas', the play also features Elaine Crombie and Guy Simon in support roles.
In speaking about the play, Lui mentions that it was being consistently suggested to her by theatre companies to adapt a classic. "It was all kind of like [being asked] to use the work of dead white men. And I took a bit of grievance with that as a young black woman. Why do I have to use the work of a dead white guy to legitimise myself?!"
A fan of the 1995 drama Showgirls, Lui wanted to use the format of Aboriginal showgirls, white people and other characters who influence Ginny to riff on cultural appropriation, noting that there "isn't one reference in the play which hasn't been appropriated."
"As an Aboriginal woman I want to be able to create a space with my work that challenges the status quo, that is doing and saying something different in a canon. It's like you want to erase the lines in the sand. Ultimately at the end of the day, society is our story, and change doesn't come from the mind, quite often change comes from the heart."
Ultimately at the end of the day, society is our story, and change doesn't come from the mind, quite often change comes from the heart
The main character in the play is bullied for the fairness of her skin and is belittled by judges at her first audition, before being shown how to exploit cultural sensitivities and use stereotypes to her advantage by her best friend. A satirical look at these issues is where Lui feels most comfortable.
Speaking to NITV, Crombie said that she is enjoying being a part of a production which broaches these subjects through comedy. "I've never been in a play like this, nor have I had to be in a Lycra onesie for a whole show either. Respectfully, all previous shows to date, I have always been a part of telling someone else's story. With Blaque Showgirls, I feel this is a universal story that rings true with everyone. This is everyone's story, whether you're white or black."
I feel this is a universal story that rings true with everyone. This is everyone's story, whether you're white or black
"Come and have a laugh and get some education because, me personally, I'd rather do something I'm good at (comedy) and be paid for it, than have no money and have to explain my position and experiences in life, as a black woman, for someone who is not a black woman and hope that they gain insight and understanding." Crombie said.
Blaque Showgirls is showing now at the Malthouse Theatre until December 4th.