Hot Brown Honey—The Remix blurs boundaries between social activism and theatrical performance

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      The creators of the show Hot Brown Honey—The Remix want to use all the tools available to give voice to Indigenous women around the world.

      According to the director cowriter, and choreographer, Lisa Fa'alafi, there are dance numbers, aerial performance, a circus show, satire, beatboxing, spoken word, and zany comedy. It's loud and it's most certainly proud.

      "This is a time when we will make the most noise and live our best lives—and be at centre stage," Fa'alafi, a Samoan Australian from Queensland, explains over Zoom to the Straight.

      When the show opens this evening (September 23) for a two-week run at the York Theatre in Vancouver, the goal is to create energy in the crowd as they gain insights and empathy for others with different lived experiences.

      "It’s pretty hard to explain Hot Brown Honey," Fa'alafi acknowledges. "It’s somewhere between a protest rally and a night out on the town. You know, you might laugh and cry. It's a roller-coaster ride of emotions, but really, it’s a time where we can celebrate together."

      Cowriter and musical director Kim "Busty Beatz" Bowers says whatever music is in the show reflects their experiences in real life. Then Beatz, who has tons of deejaying experience, says she takes this to a heightened place.

      "A track like 'Don't Touch My Hair' is absolutely saying what we're saying," she declares.

      Video: In March, Hot Brown Honey performed "Don't Touch My Hair" at a gala in Melbourne for Oxfam.

      Beatz's family was forced out of South Africa during the apartheid era and moved to Queensland where she met Fa'alafi.

      Coincidentally, Beatz notes, the South African government's apartheid policy in the 20th century was modelled on the Queensland Aboriginal Protection Act of 1897. So the two women's families experienced a parallel form of legislated oppression while living on different continents.

      Beatz says that Hot Brown Honey—The Remix is intended to give voice to the global land-back movement, which aims to reverse the effects of colonialism and empower Indigenous peoples.

      "The custodians of the land need to be the custodians of the land because look at where we are now. It's not okay," Beatz says.

      Don't go touching these women's hair!

      The original Hot Brown Honey played to sold-out audiences in Vancouver in 2018 and 2019. And both women treasure their relationship with the Cultch.

      "We’re so excited to come back," Fa'alafi says. "We’ve made some really deep connections with some First Nations matriarchy there. You know, we have a soft spot for Vancouver, in particular.”

      In the remix, Fa'alafi plays The Game Changer whereas Beatz is The Queen Bee. Others who have starring roles are their fellow "Honeys": Hope Haami as Hope One The Beatboxer, Ghenoa Gela as The Ground Breaker, Alinta McGrady as Badass Mother, Lilikoi Kaos as The Wave Maker, and Mayu Muto as The Gravity Defier.

      "It has all the things that people love about the show, but we have three new cast members," Fa'alafi says. "As time goes on people move on. We have new numbers, new energy, so that will be there for people who’ve seen it before."

      Beatz has an intriguing response when asked what can be accomplished through a live show that can't necessarily be communicated in books, lectures, or petitions.

      "There was a study that came out a couple of years ago that talked directly to the fact when you are in a room and you’re watching live performance—you’re watching theatre, music, live performance—at some point everyone’s heart starts beating at the same time," she replies. "It’s energetic. So whether you have completely opposite views, that’s a real thing that actually happens.”

      This is one reason why Beatz feels it's imperative for people to gather together for live shows regardless of whether they are like-minded on specific issues.

      Fa'alafi then quips that attending Hot Brown Honey—The Remix is like going to church. All the things that people liked before are still in the show, but there is also lots of new stuff.

      "We want our audience to sort of dance their way out of the building to make change," Fa'alafi adds. "I think we've been doing this for seven years. If you want to come and have a great night out that is also filled with emotion and some deep thinking, we've got you covered."