Indigenous sovereignty, laughter, family feuds and all the guilty pleasures of a classic romantic comedy, Black Ties is an invitation to one of the most awkward wedding receptions you'll ever attend.
It's a collaboration between the Australian state of Victoria's Ilbijerri and Auckland Te Rēhia and has been billed as the world's first Māori/Aboriginal romantic comedy for the stage.
So, there's a wildly inappropriate mother preparing a welcome for her son's Māori-Polynesian girlfriend, an indescribably chaotic pōwhiri featuring jandals and a broom, a Māori–Aboriginal sing off, a subtle but clear snub to the Union Jack and a couple of racists jokes that had me falling off my chair at the kind of comedy only first nations people can deliver.
The drama gives us characters we all know and love, but from an indigenous lens. We get a chance to see ourselves and our whanau as archetypes rather than as caricatured stereotypes.
Tainui Tukiwaho, plays the father of the bride as a loveable rogue, and inhabits the role with an ease that makes everything he did seem like a spontaneous improvisation; Jack Charles' shines at the wedding reception, emphasising the mana of elders in first nations communities.
As the uncle of the groom, he embodies the old rambling uncles who seem a bit crazy but are entirely in tune with everything that is happening and ready to drop gems of knowledge for those who are prepared to listen. Brady Peeti and Dalara Williams are the spotlight grabbing best friend and sister, stealing the show with a stage presence that is only matched by each other.
The live band features as a character and each band member adds a bit of life to the story. Tawhirangi Macpherson brings the distinctly beautiful sound of wahine Maori. Homegrown music from Australia and Aotearoa adds to the warm whanau vibe that runs throughout the show while a projection effectively transports us between Australia and Aotearoa and live streams us into the "behind-the-scenes" drama in the second act.
With cabaret style seating and a running time of 2 ¾ hours including interval, the show offers a two-for-one deal: Act one delivers a hilariously genius written indigenous rom-com and act two is an immersive wedding reception that plunges us into the middle of wildly explosive family feuds.
What: Black Ties
Where & When: Waitākere Room, Aotea Centre, until March 15