Hot Brown Honey makes taking down the master’s house with the master’s tools look easy.
And, trust me, it ain’t.
So if you were considering what you could do with your hard-earned dosh this Melbourne International Comedy Festival, and you wanted 75 mins of sheer power-fighting delight, then this is your ticket.
The Hot Brown Honey crew have been honing their craft for a number of years now, with hip hop theatre-maker/impresario, Busty Beatz, and Polytoxic-fame choreographer and designer, Lisa Fa’alafi, at the helm. Together with the world-ranking beats of Hope Haami; the gold-fire voice of singer, Ofa Fotu; the commanding energy of dancer, Juanita Duncan; and the ribald, wicked heartbreak of aerialist/circus performer, Crystal Stacey, this is a group of women who may not be “witches” but are nevertheless casting some serious magic.
In this iteration of their well-oiled show, Hot Brown Honey don’t just occupy, they own, the Northcote Town Hall space. For those not yet aware of their work, the crew take burlesque back to its roots, back through mere bump and grind to a calculating caricature that reminds us that burlesque derives from the Italian, burlesco, then burla, a joke, ridicule or mockery. The Hot Brown Honey crew know that power structures are at their weakest when you are able to laugh at them with defiance, resilience and pride.
Combining feminist, anti-colonial and anti-racist themes and tropes, the part-cabaret/part-lesson in intersectionality doesn’t just flip stereotypes of “dusky maidens” on their heads, it literally tears the head off Black/Islander Barbie, giving audiences a sensational challenge, rallying cry and emotional outburst that is as entertaining as it is powerful.
The soundtrack moves deftly between hip hop and found sound; the performers have marshaled their not-considerable talents; staging and costume are as #onpoint as Phife; and the lighting and design raise the production values to world class. And within that hilarity and mastery of form is space for the resonantly poignant and painful, seen perhaps most movingly in the works of Juanita Duncan, The Decolonised, and aerialist Crystal Stacey, The Peace Maker.
In my soon-to-be* proposed comedy PhD, there will be an entire chapter devoted to the Hot Brown Honey show, signalling it as a defining moment whereby the permission to feel – hurt, wonder, freedom, hope and pain – were afforded to me and other women of colour in the course of that most ephemeral of arts, performance. In doing so, the show celebrated the power of bodies, women’s bodies, women of colour’s bodies, women of colour’s bodies taking up space, taking up space and being ugly and beautiful and talented and powerful in a push-pull rejection and celebration that somehow achingly subverts a paradigm you’ve been smashing up against your whole life.
And I got to laugh my a** off with a friend.
In an alternate universe, I would get to tie down Kyle Sandilands and Jackie O to watch Hot Brown Honey, so that they can not only learn what actual comedy looks like, but also how deeply obsolete they are in the face of a changing Australia. Look out #straya, there are new Queens in town.
Hot Brown Honey shows from Wednesday to Sunday 8pm at the Northcote Town Hall, as a part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
* never to be proposed PhD. I promise.