Discussing race relations in Australia can be a fraught business, especially the relationship between the dominant ‘white’ (or migrant, usually from European countries) population and First Nations peoples. Black is the New White is a light-hearted romantic comedy (a ‘rom-com’), but underneath the comedy there are serious issues that students will have to think about as this unit unfolds.
Nevertheless, the purpose of the unit is not to upset students. Rather, it will give them some understanding of what has happened to Indigenous Australians since the first English colonists arrived in 1788, so that the more serious issues in the play can be explored. These introductory activities are not designed to give students a detailed knowledge of pre-colonial Australia; that would be a major project in itself. Instead, it will give them some idea of life in Australia before the arrival of the First Fleet and the contemporary problems that still plague relations between First Nations people and the broader community.
Here are some activities that will give students of all ethnic backgrounds a better understanding of their country’s past (and present).
- Play the first 1 min 50 secs of the SBS documentary, First Australians. This will provide students with a short, dramatic representation of how Indigenous Australians conceived the continent now called Australia.
- Show students the AIATSIS map of Indigenous Australia (this can be readily purchased and is a crucial resource for every classroom in every school in the country). Explain that there were over 500 language, social or nation groups in pre-colonial Australia, as shown on the map. These groups were based on their own Country and had their own languages and cultures.
- Students may be interested to listen to this podcast from Radio National’s AWAYE! program, which discusses the concept of Country.
- Black is the New White is set on Gomeroi (Kamilaroi, Gamilaraay) land. Look again at the AIATSIS map and try to locate Gomeroi Country. This document will give students some extra information.
- Virtual Songlines (created by Bilbie Virtual Labs’ Brett Leavy) is a toolkit that virtually reproduces heritage landscapes from before the arrival of the First Fleet. Remind students that every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander group had its own way of life. These simulations will demonstrate just how closely attached these groups were to their Country.
- As a result of colonisation, Indigenous Australians were dispossessed of their land. This short slideshow by Dr Sandra Phillips (PPT, 593KB) illustrates how governments, particularly the Queensland Government, were complicit in this dispossession. Explain to students that this violent practice took place all over Australia. Perhaps find an example in your own local area.
- Aboriginal people dispossessed of their land were often sent to government reserves where administrators controlled every aspect of their lives, including:
- determining where they lived and worked
- withholding wages and entitlements
- restricting land ownership
- removing children from their families by force
- controlling personal relationships and contact with family and community
- Over time, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities have either been given or have taken greater autonomy (i.e. control over their own lives). Find out which community your school is located within. It would be informative to invite an Elder to talk to your class about the ongoing and continuous nature of First Nations cultures, the role of storytelling or their own personal/community history. Another option would be to invite Indigenous achievers (e.g. artists, poets, filmmakers, writers, sportspeople, professionals, academics) with links to the community to talk about their field, and how their work contributes to contemporary Indigenous culture and a sense of identity.
- Explain to students that the 1967 Referendum gave the federal government authority over Indigenous affairs, and also led to the inclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the national census.
- It’s worth highlighting the recent resurgence of First Nations cultural expression and celebration of achievements. Share examples of the cultural revitalisation currently taking place thanks to novelists, non-fiction writers, poets, dancers, actors, lawyers, doctors and other professionals, along with so many others. Explain that their creative and ground-breaking work is helping to redefine the history and culture of Australia.
Explain to students that, for thousands of years, one of the ways that learning took place in this country was via yarning circles. Other learning occurred (and continues to occur) both formally and informally through workshops, ritual, ceremony, songs, story and practical exercises.
Tell students that there will be many opportunities for discussion in this unit, and that the yarning circle approach is highly recommended as an excellent way of participating in group discussions about the play.
In a diverse multicultural country like Australia, it is highly likely that – even though you are all Australian – you and your classmates will respond to the play and this unit from different points of view and varying ethnic backgrounds. This should be a matter of interest rather than a basis for disagreement.
- The word ‘white’ no longer refers to skin colour, but rather to Australians who still trace their heritage back to Britain, or at least to Europe. ‘White’ is also a shorthand word that signals the deployment of power in Australian society according to a particular worldview and set of attitudes, values and beliefs.
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage is quite personal – though there are three ‘working criteria’ accepted by certain community and government organisations. These are very broad and have a very specific application; you can find more detailed and interesting information about Australia’s First Peoples elsewhere.
And now to the play!
The following activities will give students the opportunity to respond personally to the play, drawing on their prior knowledge, life experiences and (hopefully) identification with the characters and situations presented.
The play as performance
- Show students the short video ‘Putting on a play’, which gives an informative overview of all the elements involved in producing a play.
- Begin with a class reading of Black is the New White. Use this initial reading simply to introduce the play and allow students to enjoy its rom-com Undoubtedly, this first reading will be hesitant. But there will be plenty of opportunities to identify aspects of the play for later discussion.
- Now begin the study of the play by organising a second reading of the script. Explain that, at this stage of the unit, the emphasis will be on the play as a stage performance rather than as a print script.
- Explain to students the roles of a play’s director and dramaturge. Explain that their jobs are to translate a written text into a stage performance. Point out the range of decisions that they have to make before they can even begin rehearsals. These include:
- the setting (including scenery, props, location of furniture, etc.)
- the selection of light and sound/music
- the costuming
- the pace of the action in various scenes (this can include the movement of performers)
- Obviously, since students are reading the script rather than watching a performance, they can only speculate about the details above. However, just talking in this way about the play should at least give them a greater interest in the script.
- Explain to students the roles of a play’s director and dramaturge. Explain that their jobs are to translate a written text into a stage performance. Point out the range of decisions that they have to make before they can even begin rehearsals. These include:
The play as printed text
The following aspects of the play do not have to be dealt with in a linear sequence. Use the information and activities in each section as possible discussion points during the reading of the script.
Naturally, Black is the New White is a play and so belongs to the drama genre, which falls into both literary and performance art. Drama tells a story through characters and action onstage in front of an audience. It is a recreation or imitation of ‘real’ life intended to entertain, inform and educate.
Drama can also be used not only to reflect life, but also to act as an agent of change.
- Introduce students to the word ‘mimesis’. Explain that in storytelling mimesis means ‘showing’, which is what a play does: it ‘shows’ a constructed world that may (or may not) look very much like the audience’s world.
- Students may be interested in the concept of ‘diegesis’, which (in contrast to mimesis) means ‘telling’. Explain that in this play it is the narrator who does the telling, filling in gaps in the story.
- Some plays are more mimetic than others. Alex Broun, quoted in ‘Praise for Nakkiah Lui’ at the beginning of the playbook, says: ‘We needed a new David Williamson, someone who speaks to Australia and Australians now. We’ve found her in Nakkiah.’
- David Williamson is an Australian playwright who has written many plays about aspects of life in Australia. He writes in a style called naturalism, which is designed to hold up a mirror to mainstream life in this country. To illustrate Williamson’s naturalistic style, show students the trailer for the film adaptation of The Club. Ask them if they think Williamson has created a believable (mimetic) mirror to what might really happen in a football club (in writing the play, Williamson was less interested in football and more interested in the power relations between the club executives). There is a teacher resource for another of his plays, The Removalists, on Reading Australia.
- Some critics have argued that Williamson’s plays, while entertaining, do not challenge the status quo (the way things are) in our country. One Australian theatre critic called naturalism a ‘tired’ and deeply conservative form.
- Although Broun may be right in seeing Nakkiah Lui as a Williamson-style playwright, Lui’s writing does not support the status quo in Australian society. She is a young leader in the Aboriginal community and uses her scriptwriting to challenge Australia’s conventional social and cultural ideas, especially on the subject of race. A Gamilaroi and Torres Strait Islander woman who grew up in Mount Druitt in western Sydney, Lui has already had a distinguished career as a writer for theatre and television. She has also starred in the ABC’s sketch comedy show, Black Comedy, for which she co-wrote the scripts. She has received a number of important awards that recognise her importance as a cultural leader.
A quick read of the blurb reveals that Black is the New White belongs to a sub-genre called romantic comedy (rom-com). The central premise of a rom-com is that romantic love can overcome all obstacles. The blurb also reveals the lovers’ names and the likely problems and obstacles that they will face over the course of the play.
Rom-com films are both numerous and very popular. It is highly likely that students will be able to name some of their favourites. They might also like to watch some short scenes from well-known films to remind them of this dramatic sub-genre’s style.
Be sure to point out that some of the play’s themes (e.g. race, class, politics) are quite serious. Therefore, to foreshadow closer study of the text, ask students whether they think a light-hearted comedy can effectively deal with such themes. This will prepare them for more in-depth study later.
Some time ago, the statement ’60 is the new 40′ trended in popular culture. More recently, the Netflix original series Orange is the New Black (2013–2019) became enormously popular. It is reasonable to think that Lui borrowed this phrasing for the title of her play, though it is highly likely that she was already familiar with the ‘X is the new Y’ snowclone (a cliche or phrasal template that can be used in different contexts).
- Ask students to discuss the possible meaning of the original statement. There is no single correct answer, but students could at least speculate about the social context from which it emerged. For instance: were older people more active and visible in society? Were social attitudes to age changing?
- Now ask students to consider the possible meaning of the title Black is the New White. Does it mean that ‘black culture’ today (e.g. hip hop music, celebrities like Beyoncé or Kanye West) is cool? What of the Netflix series, which is set in a prison? The key words, of course, are ‘black’ and ‘white’:
- Is this going to be a play about art and fashionable colours?
- Or perhaps a play about physics and the colour spectrum?
- Or, more likely, do the two colours have connotations of race?
- If students decide that the two colours are related to issues of race, ask them to suggest a possible meaning for the statement. This will involve clarifying the reference to the word ‘black’. Does Lui mean all non-white people, or only those with dark skin, or only Aboriginal people?
- Could she be referring to the popularity of black culture in ‘white society’, or to the visibility of black people in mainstream Australian society and culture? This also raises the question of ‘whiteness’, which we will explore in the Close Study section of this unit.
The narrator plays an important role in this play, not only providing important information about the characters and the backstory, but also commenting on and foreshadowing the direction of events.
- Explain to students that the narrator is the modern equivalent of the chorus in classical drama.
- Discuss the possibility that the narrator is, in fact, the ‘voice’ of the playwright (students will only be able to do this as they read the play and build up a sense of the sort of person Lui might be).
Lui has included many intertextual and cultural references in the play, assuming that most audience members will understand them. It could be an interesting activity to talk through the following list with your class and find out how familiar they are with the references:
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
- The Shawshank Redemption (and other films)
- Deaths in Custody march
- Thursday Island
- House of Cards
- Current affairs programs (e.g. The Drum; The Project)
- Stolen Generations
- Jesus freak
- Coconuts (as a term of abuse)
- The fact that Indigenous Australians live 19.2 fewer years than other Australians. A petition to Queensland Parliament to lower the Indigenous retirement age reflects this fact.
Outline of key elements of the text
Students will be familiar with the conventional structure of a full-length play, divided into acts and scenes. In Black is the New White, however, Lui has used only seven scenes, each fulfilling one of the following functions in the overall narrative:
- Exposition: the main characters are introduced.
- Discovery: secrets are revealed.
- Potential conflict: a narrative must contain conflict to hold its audience’s attention. What are the sources of conflict in this play?
- Complication: the conflict deepens and engages all of the characters.
- Crisis: the stability of the characters’ world is threatened.
- Climax: the crisis explodes, challenging the characters to decide what to do.
- Resolution: the crisis is resolved, hopefully in a positive way.
As students read the play, they should make notes about each scene using this retrieval chart (PDF, 115KB). Some information about Scene 1 has already been added.
NOTE: Scene 7 is far longer than any of the other scenes. Students should speculate as to why Lui has made the concluding scene so lengthy.
Here are some rom-com features that students should be able to include in their plot outlines:
- begins with an unlikely relationship between two seemingly different people (on the basis of class, culture, etc.)
- differences are potentially overcome by romantic love
- obstacles to the relationship arise, e.g. parental resistance
- a possible break-up of the relationship
- a happy ending
As in a novel, characters in a play are moulded by what they say and do; what other characters say about them; how those characters react to them; and, finally, what the narrator (or playwright) says about them.
In a naturalistic play, the playwright will generally try to create complex, believable characters that audiences can more or less recognise as ‘real people’. This can create a certain level of intimacy between characters and the audience, thus encouraging viewers to ‘read’ the themes of the play in an empathetic way.
As they read the play for the first time, ask students to list the characters’ various traits. You could assign small groups of students particular characters, and later have each group share its findings with the class. As an example, the character of Ray Gibson is constructed through information provided firstly by the narrator, then in a conversation between Charlotte and Francis, and finally by the character himself:
- a drover’s son
- a street fighter
- inspired by the African-American civil rights activist, Martin Luther King, Jr.
- photographed with US President Bill Clinton
- has a ‘huge ego’
- loves films like The Shawshank Redemption
- has ‘white taste’
- has appeared in a viral video
- is a ‘total nightmare’
- an ex-politician
- plays golf
- is racist
Ask students to complete a character profile chart (PDF, 112KB) for each character. As the profiles are completed and shared at a class level, students could discuss whether the characters can be read as recognisable, ‘real’ people or rather as stereotypes.
- group and personal identity
- black/white relations in Australia
- family relationships
- ethnically mixed families
- career paths
- romantic and family love
- representations of characters in terms of race, gender and class
Who do you think you are?
Identity, both group and personal, is a very important theme in this play. Almost all of the characters attempt to redefine themselves by the time the play finishes. One view of personal identity is that of the ‘Romantic self’: a stable and unified self, full of potential, with which we are all born and which grows and matures over our lifetime (like a beautiful flower that grows from a seed). This is probably how students see themselves now. Ask them to make notes or write short paragraphs about themselves using this retrieval chart for aspects of their identity (PDF, 88KB).
The categories listed on the chart are simply a guide; there is no need for students to address them all, especially if any make them feel uncomfortable. Explain that, later in the unit, they will be asked to think about themselves in a way that destabilises their ideas about their own identities, plus those of the characters in the play.
Finally, ask students to write a short profile about themselves, focusing on where they think they fit in general Australian society and culture. They can share their profile with others in small groups if they feel comfortable doing so.
1. Play review
Based on your initial personal response to Black is the New White, write a review (450–500 words) that could appear in the Arts supplement of a major weekend newspaper. Include some of the following aspects of the play:
- the genre: a rom-com (how closely does it follow the formula?)
- the playwright’s purpose (see Lui’s ‘Foreword’ to the text)
- themes and content
- a brief summary
- interesting characters
- possible meaning(s)
Although you will probably not be able to refer to a performance of the play, you could also include your own ideas about:
- the stage setting (based on descriptions in the script)
2. Persuasive letter
In a 2019 interview, the Hon Sussan Ley MP articulated a prevalent point of view regarding Australian history and European settlement (she was discussing the terrible bushfires that ravaged the country from 2019–2020). While the Minister for the Environment apologised for misspeaking, she nevertheless gave a voice to the continuing power of the white colonial story.
Now that you have learned something about pre-colonial Australia and the deep connection of First Nations people to the land over many thousands of years, write a persuasive letter (300–400 words) to Sussan Ley’s office to explain that Australia is not a young continent and that it has, in fact, been occupied by humans for much longer than 200 years.
Your letter should have the following structure:
- a salutation
- your purpose for writing
- a thesis (a statement of your point of view)
- arguments to support your point of view and persuade the reader
- a conclusion (a re-statement of the thesis)
The writer’s craft
Exploration of themes and ideas
NOTE: This section of the unit is based around several literary theories. Hopefully the unit itself will unpack these theories for students, but you may need to guide them through anything else that puzzles them.
A major theme in the play is that of Aboriginal identity. The main character, Charlotte Gibson, wonders if a wealthy Aboriginal person can still be Aboriginal. This issue of whether identities are fixed or fluid lies at the heart of the play.
Early on, the audience learns that Charlotte is a successful lawyer who has just won a big case against mining companies on behalf of an Aboriginal community. A TV network is also now trying to recruit her as a morning show presenter. However, Charlotte wants to go to university in New York to study post-colonial theory and cultural studies. There is obviously a reason that the playwright has given her main character an interest in these subjects.
‘Post’ means ‘after’, and ‘colonialism’ refers to the period when powerful European countries like Great Britain invaded and exploited other countries like India. The invaded countries were called ‘colonies’. When the invaders finally left their colonies, these countries had to try to establish a new sense of national identity, which often involved ‘writing back’ against the culture of the invader. This is important context for Black is the New White because Great Britain invaded the country now known as Australia in 1788, and colonised the people who had already been living here for 60,000 years. In fact, it might be fair to say that the ‘white’ invader has never really left Australia.
Because the invaders are more powerful, they are able to represent the colonised people as completely different from themselves. They call the colonised people ‘the Other’ and project onto them all the bad qualities they do not want to acknowledge in themselves. Then they ascribe to themselves the opposing good qualities.
For example, postcolonial theorist Edward Said said that people in the West (e.g. European countries: Britain, Spain, France, etc.) ascribed to people in the East (e.g. Middle Eastern countries) qualities that identified them as ‘the Exotic Other’. Once they had given people in the East these traits, they were able to give themselves the opposite traits.
Have students fill in this chart, listing in the left-hand column the opposite qualities to those in the right.
|The East: ‘the Exotic Other’
Ask students if they can see how giving other people negative qualities might make it easier to give oneself positive qualities. Explain how this might work in Australia.
Now have them try the following exercise (it might best be done as a whole class). Create two new columns, this time titling the left-hand side ‘White’ and the right-hand side ‘The Other’. Students must place each of the following descriptors into one of the columns, in light of what they have just learned about how colonisation and ‘the Other’ operate in Australia:
Did the columns end up looking like this?
Students may see that all the positive descriptors are in the ‘White’ column, while all the negative descriptors are in ‘The Other’ column. Ask them if the concept of ‘whiteness’ may have influenced these choices.
But what is ‘whiteness’? Remember that at one point in the play, Rose – referring to ‘white people’s history and culture’ – says: ‘We live in it’ (p. 88).
Perhaps students have heard of the White Australia policy. This was a government policy that limited immigration into Australia to ‘white’ people from countries like Great Britain, Canada and New Zealand. While the policy was abandoned in 1966, it gives us an idea of what ‘white’ in the title of this play means. It could simply refer to skin colour, but it is also a metonym (i.e. a figure of speech in which a part stands for a whole) for what we can think of as ‘whiteness’: a dominant and all-powerful system of values, attitudes and beliefs that privilege the worldview of white people over others.
In Australia, ‘whiteness’ influences politics, the law, education and health systems, police forces and the media. It also generally reflects the way that white Australians see the world. In an article called ‘Witnessing whiteness in the wake of Wik’, Aileen Moreton-Robinson says that when the High Court of Australia granted native title to the Wik people of Cape York, then-Prime Minister John Howard changed the law to protect white miners and pastoralists. This is an example of a white politician using ‘whiteness’ to protect other white people against non-white people (in this case, Aboriginal Australians).
Something to think about
Ask students if they would have put all of the positive descriptors in the ‘White’ column if they had not had all of the negative descriptors to put in the opposite column. In other words, did they decide to describe ‘White’ by what (they hope) it is not?
Some literary theory to help answer that question
Structuralists argue that our world is constructed entirely by language, a system that precedes each of us as we are born into the world. This means that we do not use language to find out about the world; instead, language (which already exists) shapes how we see the world.
Structuralists also argue that meaning depends on difference. For example, the word ‘dog’ does not have meaning because it refers to a loveable furry animal, but because it is different from a ‘log’, a ‘hog’, a ‘bog’ and so on. Therefore, ‘dog’ only has meaning by what it is not. The word ‘dog’ may conjure up an image of a furry animal, but really, there is no connection between the word and the animal. The connection is completely arbitrary.
Structuralists say that meaning is produced through differences called binary oppositions. ‘Binary’ means ‘two’, so in a binary opposition, two terms are the opposite of each other. Structuralists believe that this is the way that human beings see and organise reality.
Now, given the title of the play, have students substitute the word ‘Black’ for ‘The Other’ in the right-hand column over their tables. This produces a binary opposition: black/white. Would it be fair to say that this is how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are often seen by white people, even today?
This doesn’t look very hopeful for the sentiment expressed in the title of the play. But that can’t be what Lui had in mind, can it? How can ‘black’ be the new ‘white’ if they are so opposed to each other?
Another group of literary theorists called post-structuralists have undermined the rigid binary oppositions of structuralism. They say that both sides of a binary need each other in order to make meaning.
Here’s an example: the only way that the word ‘light’ can have meaning is if it is contrasted with ‘darkness’. ‘Light’ cannot be defined without acknowledging ‘darkness’. The two terms depend on each other and participate in each other’s meaning/identity.
Post-structuralists prefer to think of binary opposites as ‘paired terms.’ Applying this to the binary in the play’s title, the dominant term (‘white’) becomes dependent on the other term (‘black’) for meaning.
Now that the terms are paired, their respective meanings are constantly being negotiated. There is no centre; only competing terms. Meaning is no longer set in stone. The binaries can, in fact, be reversed. Now ‘black’ and ‘white’ really are connected and there is a constant power play between them. In terms of characters and race in this play, Lui has played with the paired term black/white to constantly shift power relations.
Ask students to find examples in the play where binaries are reversed. Here’s one example: Charlotte’s fiancé Francis is white, but does not exhibit any features of stereotypical white Australian masculinity. He defers to Charlotte’s father, Ray, who is rich and famous (and black). He is poor (unlike both Ray and his own father Dennison) and depends on a family trust for money. He plays the cello in a rather esoteric field of music. He is not as strong a character as his partner, Charlotte, who is black. He disappoints her with what looks like weakness but redeems himself by his love for her, and finally insists on their going to New York.
Another aspect to consider
The playwright not only collapses/undermines the black/white binary, but also the Aboriginal/’other black people’ binary through the character of Sonny.
The other subject that Charlotte is going to study in New York is cultural studies. This subject explores cultural identity in terms of race, class and gender. In fact, Lui says in the introduction to the play: ‘I was really interested in how we identify ourselves in terms of our racial and cultural backgrounds, and how that intersects with class’, and ‘what is it to be Aboriginal and middle class? Is that even a thing (pp. x–xi)?’
So far, we have explored how the black/white binary can be collapsed/undermined so that the two terms depend on each other and can even be reversed. Invite students to look at another important aspect of cultural identity: gender.
Male/female is another binary opposition at work in the play. As a whole class activity, draw a table with two columns headed ‘Male’ and ‘Female’. What descriptors might students put in the ‘Male’ column if the ‘Female’ column looked like this? Our culture has certainly assigned these qualities to femininity, at least in the past. Remind students that, according to structuralists, the descriptors only have meaning through difference.
|focused on caring roles
How do you think Lui would feel about this binary? Has she tried to collapse/undermine it in her play just as she has done with the black/white binary? Do you think any of the female characters in the play would fit neatly into the ‘Female’ column?
Students are to take one female character and assign her a list of descriptors drawn from either of the above columns. It would be interesting to work with Marie (Dennison’s wife and Francis’s mother) because you could apply descriptors like ‘caring’ and ‘home-based’ as well as ‘strong’ and ‘thoughtful’. She also calls herself ‘queer’ (in reference to her sexuality), a term which immediately challenges the male/female binary.
Once students have assigned a number of descriptors to their selected character, they are to write a short paragraph about her (like the one above describing Francis) pointing out how Lui has constructed her character to challenge the usual stereotypes.
The last dimension of cultural identity investigated in cultural studies is class. What do students understand by ‘class’? Some rough class categories are:
- upper class
- upper-middle class
- middle class
- working class
But what are the criteria for deciding which class a person (or a character in a play) belongs to? Here are some guidelines:
- level of education
- type of employment
- material assets (house, car, furniture, etc.)
- cultural interests (opera, Rugby League, wide reading, tabloid newspapers, etc.)
- type of behaviour
- … and so on
The issue of class is obviously important to Lui. She asks rhetorically: ‘what is it to be Aboriginal and middle class? Is that even a thing (p. xi, ‘Introduction’)?’ She answers her own question in this play.
Now that she has collapsed the black/white binary, the word ‘poor’ or ‘underclass’ does not have to fit only in the ‘Black’ column; cultural identities are more fluid. In fact, Francis is poor, but he is still considered middle class (partly because of his family background, but also because of his interest in classical music).
On p. 66, Rose and Charlotte argue about the connection between race and class. Charlotte worries about Aboriginal people becoming ‘whiter’ as they become more middle class, but Rose disagrees, saying that ‘class and race are not the same thing’.
Students are to select one of the characters in the play (e.g. Sonny), write down their class characteristics using the guidelines above, and then decide what class they belong to. In fact, they might find that a few of the characters fit into classes higher than middle class. Think about how that decision might be made.
The play’s structure
Black is the New White is structured around a number of other binary oppositions that we can see in operation. By now, students have discovered that the playwright seems to introduce binaries in order to collapse them through the characters and action of the play.
One side of a binary is always privileged while the other is subordinated (students have already witnessed this in the black/white and male/female binaries). Have students discuss with a classmate which term in each of the following binaries is privileged. They could mark with an asterisk the term that they think is privileged in each pair:
Place students in small groups for the following activity:
- Each member of the group is to choose a different binary from the list above. They should assign descriptors to each side and then report back to the rest of their group.
- Now students can discuss any asymmetries (things that don’t fit) they see between the descriptors for each side, as well as in the play’s characters. For example, they have already seen that none of the female characters fit easily into the ‘Female’ column above.
- The more that students look at the various binaries in the play, the more they will see that the playwright has played around with them to subvert conventional stereotypes.
- Ask students what they think Lui’s purpose is in collapsing the various binary oppositions in the play.
Other aspects of structure
Use of parallels and contrasts
In their initial response, students saw that the play’s ‘naturalistic’ style made it seem like a familiar mirror to the real world in which we live. The characters, too, looked like the sorts of people we might meet in our daily lives. But now, having explored how the play is structured, students might be starting to have some doubts about their earlier assumptions.
For example, not only does the play seem to be based on a set of binary oppositions (which we now suspect have been undermined by the playwright), but there are other structural elements in its design that will probably play an important role in shaping meaning.
Use the following diagram to find other ways that Lui has structured her play.
Here are some possible examples:
- Charlotte and Rose are sisters. They are young, high-achieving Aboriginal women. They are both planning to go to the USA to pursue their interests. However, Rose wants to open a fashion design store in Los Angeles, while Charlotte wants to study post-colonialism and cultural studies in New York.
- Francis is white and poor, while Sonny is black and rich.
- Ray (black) and Dennison (white) have both worked as politicians who seemingly pursued their own interests at the expense of those they were meant to represent. By the end of the play, they almost seem to have melded into each other (as paired terms) through their ‘treaty’.
When we first unpacked the characters in the play, we looked at how they might hold up a mirror to ‘flesh and blood’ people: unique individuals born with a unified ‘Romantic’ self, a seed from which a beautiful flower could grow (see Themes in the Initial Response section).
However, students have since examined a theory (structuralism) that postulates that language organises the world and controls how humans see it. They have already explored the possibility that Lui has constructed an ensemble of characters within a set of binary oppositions, in order to collapse those binaries and challenge race, gender and class stereotypes (among others).
Ask students to find other examples of how characters have been constructed to achieve the playwright’s purpose.
Discourse: a new way of understanding identity
Introduce students to another literary theory: discourse theory. Point out that this theory is not related to structuralism, which argues that the structure of language organises the way that we see the world. It does, however, similarly prioritise the importance of language, arguing that our social world is entirely made up of a large number of discourses, and that human identity is constructed within these discourses.
In the play, Joan seems to understand this intuitively. On p. 116 she identifies for her daughters the discourses through which they are each ‘changing the world’: ‘the arts, law, sports, design’. On p. 181 she also says: ‘Race is values, the same as any other construct in life.’
So, what is a discourse?
A discourse is a way of using language (writing, speaking and reading) and behaving in ways that establish individuals as members of a social group. The language is used to make statements about particular areas of concern (e.g. sport, education, politics, religion, medicine) that show how the group thinks about the world. Members of a social group establish their identity through discourse: they speak the same language, share similar beliefs/values and know how to behave towards other members of the discourse – but also how to treat outsiders. A discourse defines who has power, who can or cannot speak and what can be spoken about.
A helpful metaphor for this concept is that of a club, with its own rules for who is and isn’t a member, how members ought to behave and what they should be committed to. Another metaphor is that of an identity kit. Belonging to a discourse involves ways of talking, acting, believing, valuing and relating that make us into this or that person. Our membership of overlapping discourses creates our sense of identity.
Here is a diagram that illustrates the discourse of medicine (PDF, 120KB). People who belong to this discourse (e.g. doctors) must follow its rules and use its language. It is a powerful discourse in our society. It is challenged by the discourse of alternative medicine, though this is not as powerful.
Pick an important discourse to which you belong: a sports club, type of music, online gaming community, your school, a Facebook group, etc.
- Fill in the blanks and provide the answers on the discourse diagram (PDF, 116KB). Reflect on how membership of this discourse has shaped your sense of identity.
- Next, draw three more overlapping circles and label each of them with an important discourse in your life. For example, a student could come up with: netball, family, religion.
- Write in each circle the values, attitudes and beliefs promoted within that discourse. What sort of person do you have to be to belong to that discourse?
- Finally, reflect on whether these discourses are entirely compatible. Do they fit together? Do you ever feel a contradiction between discourses that causes you some discomfort? For example, someone who belongs to a mining discourse may find it difficult to simultaneously belong to an environmentalist discourse.
The audience learns that the play is set on Gomeroi Country, the ancestral land of Ray Gibson’s people, which we previously located on the AIATSIS map of Indigenous Australia (also called Kamilaroi or Gamilaraay Country – is there a hint of Ray’s name here?).
However, the play itself takes place inside Ray’s very expensive country mansion. He is obviously very rich. In Scene One, Charlotte jokes that her father has ‘White taste in a lot of things’ and Francis responds, ‘Like exquisitely designed holiday homes?’ The audience soon learns that the uneasy relationship between traditional Aboriginal identity and material wealth is a major concern for Charlotte (does a rich Aboriginal person become white?).
The scenes take place mainly within the house’s open plan lounge and dining room. In later scenes the Christmas tree becomes a central feature. Presumably it is meant to have symbolic value.
This very short trailer will give students an idea of how one theatre company visualised the stage setting.
Point of view
A key aspect of this play is fluidity of identity. This is achieved through the playwright’s deliberate collapsing or undermining of binary oppositions, which students have already explored. Is any particular point of view privileged by the end of the play? Pose the following questions to students:
- On 116, Joan says: ‘With conflict there is hope for change and growth; in our beliefs and ourselves’. Would you agree? Has the playwright both created the conflict and also pointed the way to ‘a clean slate’?
- If certain views have been privileged, would you agree that they are held mainly by the female characters and the young people in the play (even though the two older men contribute to significant change, too)?
Traditionally, the narrator of a play is considered the ‘voice’ of the playwright. Of course, there is no definitive way of knowing whether the narrator of this play is Lui herself. Nevertheless, students should reflect on this possibility and discuss it with a classmate.
Language and style
Generally speaking, the language used in the dialogue is naturalistic, i.e. it sounds the way that people in Australia speak in their daily lives. However, here are some things to think about:
- Younger characters like Charlotte and Francis speak in an educated way using Standard Australian English.
- The two older men speak more colloquially.
- Lui has used the occasional profanity (swear word), usually for comic effect.
- The two older women speak in a more conciliatory way, though by the end of the play their tone becomes more assertive.
- There is only one word (‘deadly’) in the play that has an Aboriginal connection.
- The people of the Gomeroi Nation have their own language, but the play is obviously written for non-Aboriginal Australians, so the playwright has used Standard Australian English for the characters’ dialogue.
1. Character profile: identity web
Choose one of the characters from the play and carry out another discourse analysis. Identify roughly three discourses that have shaped the character’s identity and use the blank discourse diagram (see the Task under Discourse) to analyse each one. Look especially at the attitudes, values and beliefs of each discourse. Again, ask yourself: are the discourses compatible with each other, or is the character likely to feel a troubling contradiction in their sense of identity?
Once you have completed the analysis, write a profile (about 300 words) of your selected character.
Something extra to think about
Members of a discourse who do not conform to its special knowledge and worldview will be excluded from it. For example, a doctor who is also an anti-vaxxer will be deregistered.
Are there characters in Black is the New White who do not seem to fit completely into the discourses that shape their identity? For example, Sonny belongs to the discourses of both investment capitalism, which Charlotte suggests does bad things to people (p. 125), and evangelical Christianity (‘maybe he just wants to try and make things right’). Can he belong to both discourses? Will he experience an anxiety-producing contradiction in his identity? For example, can middle class values (money, property, individual achievement) co-exist with traditional Aboriginal values (community, Country, spirituality)? This question lies at the heart of the play.
If there are contradictions in your character’s identity, then think about whether Lui is again suggesting the difficulty for Aboriginal people in finding an authentic sense of identity as they move into the middle class.
2. Identity play
Recall an event in your life that involved a conflict of values, attitudes or beliefs with another person, and that you think established or reinforced your sense of personal identity. For example, you may have disagreed with your father over the government’s refugee policy; or argued with your religion teacher over same-sex marriage; or been approached by a shopping centre security guard who asked you to stop skateboarding in the carpark.
Write a short recount of the event. Clearly illustrate the conflict of attitudes, values and beliefs involved, and also mention the power relations with the other person (they will probably have had more power than you).
Share your recount with a partner to assess whether the event is interesting and whether it reveals something about you. Refine your writing in response to your partner’s feedback (you will, of course, repeat this process with your partner’s recount).
Now transform your recount into the script for a short play (about 3–5 minutes) with two characters. Pay particular attention to the characters’ language and movement.
Rehearse your play with your partner and perform it for your class, or record it for later viewing.
Ways of reading the text
Theatregoers may have conducted a text-centred reading of the play by the time they arrive to see it performed. They will undoubtedly have heard that Black is the New White is a humorous romantic comedy with some relevance to contemporary Australia. It is likely, then, that most audience members’ reaction will be something like: ‘That was great fun and made me think about some of the issues that the play raised.’ This is a conventional reader-response approach based on a vague sense of goodwill, but it is highly likely that audience members will quickly forget about these issues.
The only way to drill down below the fun of the romantic comedy, to explore the underlying issues, is to reread the play through the ‘prism of the -isms’: in this case, structuralism, post-structuralism, post-colonialism, cultural studies and discourse theory, all of which have been examined in the Close Study section of this unit (students who would like to know more about these theories should read Peter Barry’s Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory).
One way of reading the play is as a post-colonial response to ongoing racist attitudes among non-Indigenous Australians. In his essay ‘Australia: Temper and Bias’ in the Spring 2018 edition of Meanjin, Bruce Pascoe (Dark Emu) argues that Australia is still a colonial country with what he calls a ‘Raj mentality’ (referring to the time in history when Britain controlled countries like India). If he is right, then the binary oppositions of race that students explored earlier in this unit still operate in Australian society and culture.
Reading as therapy
It is very likely that white people who see a performance of Black is the New White will come away thinking that they have learned something about race relations in Australia; however, they are unlikely to do anything about it.
In her essay ‘So White. So What.’ in the Autumn 2020 edition of Meanjin (Vol 79, No 1), Gomeroi poet and researcher Alison Whittaker responds to a book called White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. According to DiAngelo, white (mostly female) people’s acknowledgment of their shame and guilt about what their forebears did to Indigenous people produced in them a feeling of ‘white fragility’. Whittaker mocks this argument, saying that white people who acknowledge shame and guilt are looking to establish themselves as ‘good white people’: innocents who feel that they are redeemed by their confession. Whittaker points out that these people still do not demand structural change in society and continue to enjoy the benefits of white privilege, which is invisible, normalised and certainly not challenged by ‘white fragility’.
Comparison with other texts
One way previously-colonised people can ‘write back’ against colonial power is to adopt the genres of the coloniser and use them to express an entirely new worldview. This is the approach taken by Aboriginal writers like Kim Scott (Taboo; That Deadman Dance) and Alexis Wright (Carpentaria), who use the novel genre and the English language to challenge an earlier colonial view of Australia.
More Indigenous writing
In recent times there has been an explosion of wonderful books by First Nations writers published in Australia. Students may be interested in browsing or reading some of the following, amongst many others:
- Our Home, Our Heartbeat by Adam Briggs
- Mullumbimby and Too Much Lip by Melissa Lucashenko
- Ghost River by Tony Birch
- The Yield by Tara June Winch
- Taboo by Kim Scott
- Welcome to Country by Marcia Langton
Writing from an Aboriginal worldview: de-colonising the national story
One Aboriginal writer who has gone beyond a post-colonial ‘writing back’ to history is Yawuru graphic novelist Brenton McKenna. McKenna has produced a trilogy of graphic novels called Ubby’s Underdogs, which concern a gang of misfits headed by a young Aboriginal girl called Ubby, living in the town of Broome just after the Second World War.
McKenna’s graphic novels are not a retelling of traditional Aboriginal stories. In fact, he has fictionalised both Chinese and Aboriginal narratives for his own literary purposes. This reworking of the history of Broome and the pearling industry is part of a de-colonising project in which he is not so much ‘writing back’ against British colonial culture, but rather writing in a familiar narrative genre from an Aboriginal epistemology or worldview.
One important aspect of cultural studies (which Charlotte is going to study in New York) is to explore the way minority groups are represented in mainstream society and culture. It would be fair to say that Lui has used her play to represent most of her characters, especially the Aboriginal characters, in a very positive way.
McKenna has done the same thing in Ubby’s Underdogs. He has subverted the conventional retelling of part of ‘settler’ Australian history (the establishment of the pearling industry) by destabilising the representations of the various characters involved. He highlights the range of ethnic groups in Broome; he references the early role of Aboriginal divers before the arrival of Asian divers; and the main white character, the pearling master Donappleton, is represented as a criminal. The hero of the story is an Aboriginal man called Mulli, the leader of the Secret Council of Magic, who will lead the whole community to do battle with forces of evil that could destroy the world.
Similarly, with the Aboriginal characters in her play, Lui challenges all of the old stereotypes.
Evaluation of the text
As representative of Australian culture
In Scene Seven of the play (p. 173), Dennison and Ray (who as politicians were strongly ideologically opposed to each other) agree to ‘write up’ a treaty between themselves on Ray’s iPad. Their children are the subject of the agreement, but audience members will associate the word ‘treaty’ with the much broader issue of a treaty between ‘settler’ and First Nations Australians. Again, Lui uses the humour of a rom-com to introduce a much more serious national theme into her play.
Australia is, in fact, the only Commonwealth country in the world that has failed to sign a treaty with its First Nations people. Bob Hawke promised a treaty in 1988 but did not deliver on his commitment. Instead, he introduced a lengthy process of reconciliation to prepare non-Indigenous Australians for a referendum. This has obviously not yet happened.
In addition to resistance from conservative groups, one major obstacle is consensus among Indigenous people regarding the nature of a platform from which to negotiate a treaty. There is a fear among the broader Indigenous population that some representative groups (e.g. traditional owners whose land rights have already been recognised) will agree to a treaty that promotes assimilation rather than traditional Indigenous culture and protocols.
Other examples of failures in Australian race relations
The Uluru Statement from the Heart
The Uluru Statement from the Heart was released 26 May 2017 by delegates to an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Referendum Convention, held near Uluru in Central Australia. The statement calls for a ‘First Nations Voice’ in the Australian Constitution, a ‘voice’ in Federal Parliament and a ‘Makarrata Commission’ to supervise a process of ‘agreement-making’ and ‘truth-telling’ between government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (Makarrata is a Yolngu word approximating the meaning of ‘treaty’).
The requests made by the Statement have been comprehensively rejected by mainstream politicians.
Closing the Gap
The Closing the Gap framework is an Australian government strategy that aims to reduce disadvantage among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, based on seven targets (including life expectancy, child mortality, access to early childhood education, and literacy and numeracy at specified school levels). The strategy began in 2008 under the Rudd government. Unfortunately, the gap is scarcely closing in most of the areas targeted by the program.
For discussion: a possible way forward
Michelle Carey, in a paper entitled ‘From Whiteness to Whitefella: Challenging White Race Power in Australia’, suggests that one way of making ‘whiteness’ visible is to use the term ‘non-Aboriginal’ for all Australians who match that description. In this way, she hopes, white people would come to see themselves as just another group in Australian society and not ‘the group’. She acknowledges, however, that Indigenous people could see the term ‘Indigenous’ as rather homogenising, and that her suggestion perhaps creates another binary opposition.
Carey also highlights Marcia Langton’s concept of a ‘third domain’, where Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people engage in shaping, informing and understanding each other’s identities and intersubjectivities through ongoing and dynamic dialogue. In this context, there is an opportunity for the two groups to see themselves in relationship to each other, rather than in opposition.
It could well be that texts like Black is the New White belong in this ‘third domain’.
In an opinion piece published in May 2020, the well-known Aboriginal journalist, broadcaster and writer Stan Grant addresses the same issues that Lui deals with in her play. Grant has been very successful in mainstream Australian society and draws inspiration and strength from his connection to Country and community. He concludes that, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, professional success and cultural consciousness do not have to be mutually exclusive; both can be achieved, and neither detracts from a sense of identity or belonging.
Choose ONE of the following exercises.
1. Persuasive writing
One way that Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians can communicate in the aforementioned ‘third domain’ is to read literary works that reflect both groups’ worldviews. Most books read by Australian school students are written by non-Indigenous authors; the time has come for students to read more texts by Indigenous authors.
Write a request to your school librarian suggesting that they buy more young adult fiction written by First Nations authors. Some books that you could recommend include:
- Becoming Kirrali Lewis by Jane Harrison
- Ghost River by Tony Birch
- Grace Beside Me by Sue McPherson
- Us Mob Walawurru by David Spillman and Lisa Wilyuka
- Songs That Sound Like Blood by Jared Thomas
- Ubby’s Underdogs: Heroes Beginnings by Brenton McKenna
These books are very readable, so you could read them quite quickly and refer to them in your persuasive note.
2. Exploring representations
Cultural studies focuses on how groups in a society are represented in various forms of mass communication, especially in news stories, TV advertisements, movies and novels. One of its purposes is to challenge demeaning stereotypes that diminish groups and individuals and maintain the power of the dominant group.
One way of unpacking representations in texts is to use the appraisal system (PDF, 147KB) to reveal how audiences are positioned to accept a particular representation of the subject. This framework can be used to unpack the representation of a public figure, a character in a novel, a human subject in a news report, and so on.
As an introduction, read this summary of a newspaper article (PDF, 109KB) entitled ‘Hellcat, 12, locked away’. Then examine the corresponding letter to the editor (PDF, 103KB), which shows how a reader can use the appraisal system to unpack a text and respond to the representations within it.
Your task is to use the appraisal system to unpack the representation of an Aboriginal person in a news story or novel. Then write a letter to the editor to challenge the representation, following the example of the ‘Hellcat’ letter above.
Synthesising the core ideas
An overriding theme in Black is the New White is that of defining personal identity, which – for all humans – depends on lived experience within a society and its culture; family and group membership within the wider society; and memories of the past.
This is especially problematic for the Aboriginal characters in the play, because they must try to balance their sense of self as First Nations people within a broader culture of national identity that is not particularly sympathetic to or supportive of them. In Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia (edited by Anita Heiss), for example, many of the writers – reflecting on their experiences – refer to restricting stereotypes applied to them based on skin colour, facial features, family backgrounds, pseudo-scientific theories around genetic makeup, and so on.
A major problem for young characters in the play (like Charlotte and her sister Rose) is reconciling personal ambition with the deadening and humiliating stereotypes imposed on Aboriginal people by wider society. Lui refers to this herself in the foreword to the play (p. xi): ‘I was trying to figure out: what is it to be Aboriginal and middle class? Is that even a thing?’ In his opinion piece, Stan Grant argues that many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have achieved a sense of identity based on individual economic success while remaining connected to their Country and community (see Significance section).
In this play, Lui sets out to deconstruct negative stereotypes of Aboriginal people in a very subtle way. In the Initial Response section of this unit, students probably approached the play as a fairly standard rom-com with a familiar storyline, heart-warming resolution and conventional characters. However, the exercises in the Close Study section will have alerted students to the ways Lui has undermined all of these stereotypes. The Significance section broadened out the issues that the play raises around race and class in Australia, to make playgoers/readers more aware of how Australian society and culture should change in the future.
The following rich assessment tasks will give students the opportunity to apply their new knowledge and insight to real-world situations.
Rich assessment task (receptive mode)
Speaking: drama panel discussion
For teachers: the context
Lui has used the structure and features of a rom-com in writing Black is the New White. As teachers and students will already know from watching Hollywood films, rom-com is a very popular genre and Lui’s play will undoubtedly appeal to a wide audience because of this. Many theatregoers will come away from the play still chortling at some of the amusing exchanges between characters. They will also bask in the warmth of the protagonists’ love (‘love conquers all’). It is a reasonable assumption, however, that they will also reflect on some of the serious themes that underlie the surface humour of the play.
These themes include:
- The suppressed history of colonial Australia.
- The stereotypes that regulate not only the representation of Aboriginal people, but also the way in which Aboriginal people see themselves.
- The power of ‘whiteness’ that denies Aboriginal people a degree of autonomy, and also continues to produce division in Australian society.
- The failure of political leaders to address problems of race in Australia.
Other related themes include:
- The status of women in a changing world.
- The role of mass and social media in moulding public attitudes.
- The power of drama to challenge the cultural status quo.
Of course, theatregoers will respond differently to the play depending on their own worldviews and ideologies (attitudes, beliefs and values). The following task requires students to ‘read’ the play from different ideological positions, as a way of understanding the subtlety with which Lui has addressed complex themes. Panellists should not feel that they must oppose other readings; multiple readings will hopefully add to the richness of the play’s overall meaning.
For students: the task
You began studying this play by responding personally to its themes and possible meanings. However, as you have worked through this unit (especially the Close study section), you have been challenged to ‘read’ the play in a broader way. The following task extends this challenge, asking you to respond to the play from a position beyond your own.
You are to take part in a panel discussion of Black is the New White as part of a major writers’ festival. There will be five panellists, each responding to the play from a different reading position based on their assigned role.
In your role, you must show a deep knowledge of the play based upon detailed analysis. However, your assessment will reflect the ideology (values, attitudes, beliefs) of the role that you are playing. Your presentation must show that you understand this ideological position and how it shapes your ‘reading’ of the play.
The roles are:
- Indigenous rights advocate
- conservative social commentator
- Australian historian
- theatre critic
Role descriptors (PDF, 124KB) are available to help you prepare for this activity.
There are three parts to this task:
- The presentation of a formal prepared speech (5 mins) in which you explain your reading of the play, including quotes and specific references to elements of the script.
- The preparation of questions in response to one other panellist’s presentation.
- A response to questions about your own presentation from one other panellist.
Rich assessment tasks (productive mode)
Task 1: an open letter
In early June 2020, protests swept across the US following the murder of African American man George Floyd by a member of the Minneapolis police. There were subsequent shootings of African Americans by police and civilians in other parts of the US. This ongoing violence galvanised the Black Lives Matter movement, both within the US and around the world. The killing of African Americans by white police resonates in Australia, where a great many Indigenous people have died in custody in Australian jails.
On 2 June 2020, Lui appeared on The Project and gave a powerful speech that offered non-Indigenous Australians a new perspective on race relations. Those who died in custody, she said, were not just statistics but real people with names and loved ones. She then urged viewers to empathise with Indigenous Australians, and to support them in protesting against their systemic mistreatment.
Write an open letter to all Australians urging them to support First Nations people in their demands for better treatment from the government. Your letter will appear in a major newspaper with a large general readership.
You will have to research some of the issues that you can mention in your letter. These include:
- the Stolen Generations
- the high level of Indigenous incarceration
- Indigenous deaths in custody
- the fight for native title and land rights
- the Uluru Statement from the Heart
- the Closing the Gap program
- other issues related to Indigenous Australians’ fight for autonomy
Task 2: play script and performance
It is Christmas Eve, exactly one year since the Gibsons, their relatives and their friends last got together. A lot has happened in twelve months, so you will have plenty of material to write a short play script (500–600 words) in the style of Black is the New White.
Choose two characters and base your script around the likely interplay between them. Here are a few possible scenarios:
- Rose has made her name in Los Angeles designing only black evening gowns. She boasts about this to Charlotte who, having studied post-colonial theory, suggests that Rose should blend Aboriginal motifs into her clothing.
- Ray and Dennison are still arguing over the wording of their ‘treaty’. They are still using Twitter and arguing over the meaning of words.
Here are some starting points for your script:
- How has Sonny dealt with his identity as a character of Tongan background?
- What have Ray and Dennison done with their ‘treaty’?
- What has Charlotte learnt from her university courses in New York?
- How successful has Rose’s fashion show in Los Angeles been? Has she explored the possibility of designing clothing with an Aboriginal motif?
- Has Francis given a public performance yet?
- Has Joan begun a political career?
Try to build into your script some of the features of a rom-com: a dispute over a single issue (e.g. Charlotte tells Francis that he should give up the cello, buy a guitar and join a punk rock band); short, sharp, comic dialogue (e.g. Francis: Did you say ‘punk’ or ‘junk’?); some intertextual references; and a friendly reconciliation.
Rehearse your script with a partner and be prepared to perform it in front of your class, or to video it for later viewing.