IF you have ever tried on a treasured old jacket to discover it is still the perfect fit, then you will know how Melbourne actor Tony Briggs felt returning to his role as Ray Gibson in playwright Nakkiah Lui’s comedy Black is the New White.
Briggs was part of the Sydney Theatre Company cast when the production premiered in 2017, had another run in 2018 and continues as the larger-than-life father character when Black Swan State Theatre Company presents the work at Heath Ledger Theatre.
“It’s been fantastic coming back to it,” Briggs, a Yorta Yorta/Wurundjeri man, said.
“It’s a raucous barrel of laughs from the start all the way to the end, filled with incredible joy and a message of love for family.
“It’s a political satire in many ways and an exploration of Aboriginal family in a way that has never been put on stage before.”
The play centres on Ray Gibson’s daughter Charlotte (Miranda Tapsell) who brings her fiance home for Christmas to meet her family.
He is a white, unemployed experimental composer and the move creates all sorts of unintended consequences.
“Ray is a doting father who means well but is a bit of a dinosaur,” Briggs said.
“He prides himself on his past but has even more pride for the women in his life, his wife and two daughters.
“His faults don’t allow him to see the error of his ways until one of those great women makes it very clear to him. He thought he was adored and loved, which he is, but not exactly his policies as an ex-politician.”
No stranger to the Black Swan State Theatre Company stage, Briggs has been in numerous productions and created Helpmann Award-winning play The Sapphires, inspired by the real story of an Aboriginal singing group, including his mother and aunt, who toured Vietnam during the war.
The former track and field athlete said it was brilliant to see Lui’s work embraced by audiences.
“There are so many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices that haven’t been heard but are coming through on a platform like this,” he said.
“It makes me feel really proud to be perfectly honest with you; I’m proud and excited about the future of our creators.
“I’m also flattered to have been asked to be a part of this production in the first place. To bring to life a character that has been penned by a prolific writer like Nakkiah is a real honour.”
What: Black is the New White
Where: Heath Ledger Theatre
When: September 11 to 22