Written by Kim “Busty Beatz” Bowers and Lisa Fa’alafi. Directed by Lisa Fa’alafi. Musical direction by Kim “Busty Beatz” Bowers. A Briefs Factory production, presented by the Cultch. At the York Theatre on Wednesday, January 10. Continues until January 27
What a party!
Hot Brown Honey is an invitation to join a group of phenomenally talented women of colour as they claim their space and make a whole lot of noise.
With origins in burlesque, the show is a fusion of dance, acrobatics, music, and satire created by Australians Kim “Busty Beatz” Bowers and Lisa Fa’alafi. Near the start of the show, we hear voice-over snippets of male public figures deriding feminism and its “toxicity”.
The rest of the show is a festive fuck-you to that attitude, exhorting us to “decolonize, moisturize, and reconnect”.
This celebration of female power showcases a variety of virtuosic skills, from Ofa Fotu’s soulful singing to Hope Haami’s dazzling beatboxing. Crystal Stacey performs a hoop routine, clad in a bikini, blond wig, and oversize sunglasses: at one point she’s twirling half a dozen hoops; a moment later, she’s launching them off her abdomen into the wings.
There’s pain here: Stacey’s bikini bimbo has thoughtlessly “colonized” the beach, for example; in another number, Elena Wangurra performs an agonized dance to free herself from the confinement of a dress made from the Australian flag. There’s anger in the terrifically direct lyrics of “Don’t Touch My Hair”, for which Busty Beatz dons a massive Afro wig. Infusing everything is a tremendous playfulness and irreverence: for example, “pussy power” is celebrated in the form of crotch pillows featuring feline faces.
Writer-director-choreographer Fa’alafi also designed the costumes, whose ingenious transformations are a frequent source of both surprise and satire. In two solo dance sequences, she uses leaves, grass, and coconut shells to play with stereotypes about Indigenous women in the South Pacific.
Like the costumes, the set, designed by Tristan Shelly, is a huge part of the fun: a giant honeycomb assembled from plastic pails, each outfitted with LEDs, on which lighting designer Paul Lim creates patterns that synchronize with the music. Musical director Bowers perches atop the hive, keeping the beat and inviting us to join in. Who could refuse?