By Eric Scott
Hot Brown Honey
Directed by Lisa Fa’alafi
Musical director Busty Beatz
Judith Wright centre of Contemporary Arts
Season: March 19-28, running time 90 minutes including interval. Bookings: 07 3872 9000
Lisa Fa’alafi, as Mumma Kokonuti
This was my first visit to The Judy for some time; parking has always been a nightmare. But thanks to a great $7 parking deal with Wilsons on Berwick Street I will find my way there more often – especially after seeing Hot Brown Honey.
What a surprise item this was. I wasn’t sure what I was watching, but I knew it was good.
I wondered if I was in the right place when I entered the room. There was a DJ playing screamingly loud hip hop music and a host of young people, who tended to yell and scream a lot. The DJ turned out to be Busty Beatz, one of the co-founders of the troupe and the one who belted out soul singing and was also compére for the evening.
But, I thought, if the show is bringing a horde of young people into a theatre, it’s worthwhile, so I sat expecting to suffer in a good cause.
But I had a great time and was thoroughly entertained by the antics of eight women of all shapes and sizes and various shades of brown. I have never seen anything quite like it outside of the musical Gypsy. But the shbow has style, humour, energy, a hell of lot of sass, bad language, great singing, and a few items of political points scoring.
There were half naked girls with pasties covering their nipples girls who danced and pranced and created some hilarious, and often very rude or sexy situations – The jungle Twerkers would just about blow the mind of anyone with a delicate disposition.
We had a female Elvis impersonator, who sang an extremely rude version of Are You Lonesome Tonight, a voodoo queen, and Hope Haami did an amazing beat box sequence that had me fooled. Then we had a touch of circus with hoops and an acrobatic silks act by Crystal Stacey that was a moving response to the silent women who suffer from domestic violence.
A couple of the highlights was the effervescent Lisa Fa’alafi, as Mumma Kokonuti in a hugely funny act with song, dance, and a huge coconut. But she was even better as a topless Polynesian native, who we see facing away from the audience. She is weaving, we are told, in the old island ways. Except that she makes a pair of stiletto heels and a handbag for starters.
From then she turns the act into an amazing reverse striptease and she slowly dresses herself from the material she has supposedly woven. It was a stunning piece of theatre.
We even had a selection of opera arias from Heru Pinkasova – including excerpts from Bizet’s Carmen.
The idea for the show began in 2010, when Busty Beatz a musical collaborator with Lisa Fa’alafi’s Dance Theatre Company Polytoxic and Hip Hop Theatre maker Candy B, was feeling the lack of Artists of Colour, as she put it, on the Burlesque Stage.
She had the idea to create a platform for brown movers and shakers. And Hot Brown Homey was formed. The show was first performed for 3 nights in January 2012 at Red Bennies, Melbourne Australia.
Hot Brown Honey is a Brisbane based company that is steeped in the original definition of Burlesque from the point of view of women of all shades of brown, and then recreated for the Hip Hop generation.
The artists poke fun at politics and social structures around them as well as burlesque itself and tell their stories in a loud, brash and totally entertaining way.
Women in the audience said they saw the show as empowerment for their sex, helped them accept that all body shape are beautiful, and made them proud to see women taking centre stage in a male world.
Me? I saw a group of talented performers who entertained me greatly. It wasn’t a show aimed at my generation, but it pulled me right in and I enjoyed every minute. Hot Brown Honey is entertainment for people who like their theatre with oomph.