An Octoroon

QT An Octoroon Colin Smith AARA provocatively hilarious interrogation of identity, Queensland Theatre and Brisbane Festival presents the Australian premiere of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins powerful stage story An Octoroon, subtly recontextualised by leading Aboriginal artist and commentator Nakkiah Lui at the Bille Brown Studio this September.

An Octoroon is the story of historical Louisiana. Or historical Far North Queensland. Or it’s the story of a black playwright. Or how race is portrayed on stage. Or, maybe it’s about how they’re all the same story.

Brash and provocative, this satirical comedy traces its roots back to an 1859 stage melodrama by crowd-pleasing Irish impresario Dion Boucicault. When the story of a man who scandalously falls for a slave on his Louisiana plantation premiered in New York, it helped fan the flames of the American Civil War.

Today – with race still as incendiary a global issue as it was then – the dazzling and radical African-American playwright has torn apart and rebuilt the original text as a towering, immersive and wildly funny theatrical experience like no other, one which channels society’s view on race today.

The Queensland Theatre production of An Octoroon will be subtly recontextualised to uncover and skewer Australia’s shameful history of slavery by leading Aboriginal artist and commentator Nakkiah Lui (Black Comedy). Lui’s most recent play Black is the New White was a sell-out hit at Sydney Theatre Company recently. Now, she makes her directorial debut in a Queensland and Australian exclusive.

Nakkiah Lui’s previous plays include: Blaque Showgirls, Kill the Messenger, Blak Cabaret, Blackie Blackie Brown: The Traditional Owners of Death, Stho Sthexy, I Should Have Told You Before We Made Love (That I’m Black) and This Heaven’ Playwright. A monthly columnist for The Australian Women’s Weekly, she contributes to The Guardian and Junkee and has appeared on ABC’s Q&A and The Drum, and as a regular guest and presenter on ABC Radio Sydney.

An Octoroon premiered Off-Broadway at Soho Rep on April 23, 2014, directed by Sarah Benson, featuring music by César Alvarez (of The Lisps), choreography by David Neumann, set design by Mimi Lien, and lighting design by Matt Frey. The production was critically acclaimed, winning an Obie Award for best new American play in 2014. It was subsequently produced by Theatre for a New Audience at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center in Brooklyn, NY in 2015. The play has since been performed in Boston, Philadelphia, Portland and London.

Director: Nakkiah Lui Featuring: Elaine Crombie, Chenoa Deemal, Sarah Ogden, Melodie Reynolds-Diarra, Shari Sebbens, Colin Smith, Anthony Standish, Anthony Taufa Designer: Renee Mulder Lighting Designer: Ben Hughes Composer/Sound Designer: James Henry

An Octoroon
Bille Brown Studio – Queensland Theatre, 78 Montague Road, South Brisbane
Season: 21 September – 8 October (previews: 16 – 20 September)
Information and Bookings: www.queenslandtheatre.com.au

Image: Colin Smith features in An Octoroon – courtesy of Queensland Theatre

Note: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this production of An Octoroon contains images and voices of deceased persons.

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