Fierce power fighters

Hot Brown Honey (Briefs Factory/Black Honey Company)

Judith Wright Centre, Performance Space

September 16 – 26

Culture doesn’t just have to be of the heightened type that occurs only in flagship venues. And “Hot Brown Honey” is evidence of this as, preshow, the Judith Wright Centre is a hive activity (#punintended) as the Hot Brown Honeys mingle amongst the audience. The anticipation is only sweetened upon entry into the theatre space and introduction to the visually dominant honeycomb-esque mountain from atop which a loud and proud Busty Beatz begins the high energy showcase of female talent. And what a range of talent it includes, with dancers, vocalists and even a beatboxer appearing as part of the show’s appealing eclecticism, harmonising perfectly despite their distinct individual styles.


For the uninitiated, Hot Brown Honey is a collective of talented beauties of all shapes and sizes, united in quest to pack a sweet punch of hip-hop politics by smashing stereotypes and exploring sticky topics. In doing so they present strength of conviction, voice and determination in shows that seem only to go from strength to glorious strength as examples of entertainment by the people for the people.


Those who have experience of their most recent Judy outing can be reassured by presence of previous crowd favourites, bogan Aussie girl in Bali (Crystal Stacey) and Polynesian basket weaver (Lisa Fa’alafi), as well as the Seymour-like finale coconut (whose favourite snack is prejudice).


Joining them are new and equally memorable moments of impressive physicality and creative invention such as outrageous parody of Iggy Azalea and Nicki Mina, and tribute to an “Eat Pray Love” yoga devotees from special guest Sammy Willians.


And there is real highlight in appearance of Miss Bogan Villea  (special guest Benjamin Graetz, last seen with the Honeys at ”지하 Underground”, (Uplate) at 2014’s WTF Festival) for a couple of unapologetically-ocker Acca Dacca and Midnight Oil numbers to have Thunderstruck audience members clapping and whooping along.


The show is not all irreverence though, including comment on a number of political issues related to nationalism, colonialisation and empowerment. Indeed, the inclusion of its domestic violence number during which Crystal Stacey performs a series of stunning aerial circus moves, elevates the significance of its themes to a new level of (unfortunate) topical appreciation. The addition of the song ‘Where are you from?’ provides one of the other most overt instances, but this is tempered by the cohesion of transformation from, for example, contemporary to indigenous dance within one of the opening numbers.


“Hot Brown Honey” is a show of contrasts and with its pulsating musical score (thanks to the wonderful reinvention and rearrangement of many contemporary pop classics), it offers plenty of bombastic moments of pure entertainment. With the help of some luscious lighting and the cleverest of costumes as layer upon layer is often shed to unfold entirely new outfits, each more elaborately realised than the last, the hyper-reality of its segments becomes infectious because never has fighting the power tasted so sweet. There is also chance that you may even be lucky enough to feature in the always light-hearted interactive segment that see audience members’ getting up close and personal with a particularly Busty Beatz.

“Hot Brown Honey” is a heightened experience on a grand scale, making it a hyperbolically great show that will leave you raving to others in exhilaration of its fierce performances, powerful messages and celebratory feel. More than just a fun night out, it includes piercing social commentary of things that should and do matter, which makes it perfect for curation within a festival program.


Photos c/o – Dylan Evans


Brisfest brightenment and enlightenment

It was difficult not to think pink in the vicinity of the CBD’s George Street when a massive marquee took over Queen’s Park as host to celebration of 2015’s Brisbane Festival launch. With Principal Partner, Treasury Casino and Hotel also lit up for the occasion, the excitement was mind-blowing (to take the festival’s tagline.)


Although the festival is Australia’s youngest international arts festival, its growth in audience attendance and program size since it was made an annual event in 2009, affirms its role in connecting artists and audiences through attracting world class entertainment. And in his inaugural year as festival director, David Berthold is certainly bringing the world to Brisbane from September 5 – 26, first and foremost through the drawing together of four shows umbrella-ed as ‘Congo Connections, showcasing the power, politics and personality of the unique African nation. These include “Coup Fatal”, which will see Congolese Countertenor Serge Kakudji joining 12 musicians to refashion some of the greats of baroque music with pop, rock and jazz, and also “Macbeth”, a thrilling showcase of Verdi’s operatic version set in the Congo.


The provocative programming continues with “Flexn”, a piece created by Brooklyn hip-hop pioneers of the relatively new dance from flex, which opened only months ago in New York City. Infused as it is with the unrest following the extreme circumstances in the US in aftermath of police shootings of unarmed black suspects, the piece is sure to stir as well as reflect deep resonance with our own national narrative. And to have it playing almost alongside “Beautiful One Day” is quite the coup, for this acclaimed theatrical documentary promises to be a gripping look at the death of Mulrunji Doomadgee in police custody on Palm Island and the subsequent aftermath uprisings, even more so by its inclusion of Palm Island residents (including Doomadgee’s niece).


Then there is also “Hot Brown Honey”, a cabaret of less drama but just as much political passion, returning in an explosion of colour, culture and controversy to the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts to serve up some comedy, circus, striptease, song, dance and poetry while smashing a few stereotypes along the way.

There is similar promise of stereotype shattering in W!ld Rice’s “The Importance of Being Earnest”, as part of the festival’s Singapore Series to mark the 50th anniversary of Singapore’s independence. The gender-bending play, which features an all-male cast (no drag) has been a huge hit in Singapore, despite homosexuality being illegal there, and promises the joy of Wilde’s wit, with a twist.

Brisbane Festival is Brisbane’s biggest party, vibrant, lively and unique. And September 2015 promises to build upon this with events for cabaret connoisseurs, circus lovers and a music enthusiasts featuring alongside its thought-provoking and politically charged works, to ‘brighten and enlightened the world with mix of the merry and the meaty’, Berthold described it, for amongst the big subjects and serious conversations, there is also promise of some sure fun.


The creators of “La Soiree” are returning to the Spiegeltent with “Club Swizzle”, which promises to be just as debaucherously sassy as its circus cabaret forerunner. “Thum Prints” sees beatboxing virtuous Tom Thum matching forces with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra and “Symphony For Me” sees the QSO putting on a free concert based on the submitted favourite classical pieces of some of its audience members. The music program also includes an environmentally focused muliti-media collaboration between former Powderfinger frontman Bernard Fanning, four-time Aria Award winner Katie Noonan and renowned Western Australian author Tim Winton, along with around-the-world solo sailor Jessica Watson, as part of the 50th anniversary of the Australian Marine Conservation Society and also “A State of Grace” tribute to the music of Tim and Jeff Buckley, featuring a swag of acclaimed musical performers.

Brisbane audiences are sure to be tickled pink with the program, which features hundreds of artists from five continents, including a number of free events (because arts should be accessible to everyone). Although there are many ways to enjoy a festival, exhilaration comes from the connection and accumulation of its program’s parts, and in 2015, this promises to be truer than ever. With so much theatre, music, dance, circus, film and lots more, there are countless opportunities to brighten and enlighten. Tickets are on sale from June 30, so grab a program and start planning how you are going to paint the town pink this September.


The beatz must go on

Hot Brown Honey (Black Honey Company)

Judith Wright Centre, Performance Space

March 19 – 28

Often when you see a good show, you leave the theatre thinking how you could easily see it again. Sometimes, when you see a great show, you leave thinking also of everyone you want to bring back to see it again with you. “Hot Brown Honey” is most defiantly a case of the latter. More experience than show, it is an energetic, entertaining and thought-provoking consideration of the legacy of colonialism and the powerful women who are generally forgotten about in politics.

And you don’t get any more powerful than Busty Beatz, the show’s DJ and emcee of sorts. Tracksuit clad and full of fierce attitude, she shows us just how timely this show is, with her inset political observations and comments on social structures and racial injustice. Despite this weighty subject matter, however, the show is jam packed with moments of side-splitting hilarity, culminating in a high-energy explosion of freaky Timmy Trumpet rhythm from a very Busty Beatz.


From the simmering shores of Polynesia to bogan Bali antics, “Hot Brown Honey” smashes stereotypes and mischievously undresses sticky topics, often quite literally, in its many and varied burlesque numbers. Indeed, the show features a range of musical moments, from Taylor Swift to The White Stripes and even a bit of Barbara. And there are a number of quite poignant parts in the show’s second act, including an amazing aria from Heru Pinkasova, showing how Opera Australia’s loss is our gain. A superb aerial performance by Crystal Stacey is also simply stunning: a strong, sensual and utterly moving response to the women of domestic violence who can’t speak for themselves.


“Hot Brown Honey” a difficult-to-define show that is full of surprises, from beyond-belief beat-boxing talent (from Matehaere Hope Haami) to a colossal talking coconut, as it represents a hybrid of diverse artistic forms from some highly talented women. No words can aptly describe how gloriously camp, clever and comic this culmination of dance, hip-hop, opera, burlesque, circus, satire and politics is. The spirit on stage is quite palpable. There is clever use of costume and much energetic movement – so much so that it is almost impossible to keep up with it all at times – but in its tremulous ending, its important message is certainly clear. For, as the song says, ‘It’s a man’s world. But it ain’t nothing without a woman’ and the age of entitlement is over.


The Arts has the capacity to shift culture and we are in a culture that needs change right now. Thankfully there are fearless women like the bold members of Black Honey Company to lead the creative revolution. If only there were more like them, ready to inspirationally survive, thrive and rise. “Hot Brown Honey”… that’s how it’s done people.