What do you expect to see when you head to a show featuring talented soul singers, an internationally ranked BeatBoxer, circus performers and dancers? When they are also six fierce and sassy women of colour, you get a night at the theatre that will blow your mind. Hot Brown Honey are here and they are ready to “shine a light on all the talented Hot Brown Honeys around Australia doing amazing work on stage.” Touted as a “equal parts theatrical masterpiece and social activism” these women have got something to say and they want the world to hear it. Busty Beatz is one of the show’s creators, its musical director and all-round queen bee of the group. She sat down with Michael James to give some insight on what this powerful group is bringing to the Brisbane stage.
Hot Brown Honey comprise six powerful women of colour, from a diverse mix of cultures. Lisa Fa’alafi, Ofa Fotu, Hope Haami, Elena Wangurra, Crystal Stacey and Busty Beatz create a beautiful background of cultural history. Comprising Aboriginal Australian, Samoan, Tongan, Indonesian, Maori and South African heritages they are out to shatter the preconceptions of colour.
“Basically we’re telling our own stories and putting them into a big theatrical explosion. We are going, you know what, it’s our time to shine,” she said.
“We’re all from these amazing heritages and we all live in Australia and we want to show the world what we’re made of. We really do believe ‘You cannot be what you cannot see’, so we are just doing it; we are putting more brown faces on stage.”
Both Lisa and Busty have had lengthy careers in the arts, after over twenty years they had seen so many talented women of colour in the industry but not the main stage, they decided to do something.
“We’ve met so many awesome honeys on the fringes, we thought it was time to bring them on the stage. We knew all these great women, now it was time to bring them all together. We did our first creative development at the Judith Wright centre, have gone from strength to strength from there, and are now taking over the world,” Busty said.
Together these powerful women have created a show with punch and sass. “Our narrative is looking at different stereotypes and smashing them. Basically talking from our truth. What our experiences have been, how we deal with that. It’s about resilience and how we’ve found our way to get to centre stage.”
Busty’s passion is very real and visceral, there’s a strong ownership of herself and the artists to be present in a performance where the stories and the people behind them are given voices and visibility.
“We go there because our stories are intersectional, they intersect gender, race, queerness and living in Australia, which is stolen land. So we’ve created a show that tells all of those stories.”
Queerness is another element to the power of this group, shying away from the specific labels of sexuality the group seek to explore the world of queerness and how each of them come to identify and understand that relationship.
“All of us have different ideas on how we intersect our different worlds and how we relate to queerness as female performers, pretty phenomenal women and creators of a very queer aesthetic.
“That’s our world, it’s for the risk takers, the game changers, the truth sayers, the mislayers, that’s where we all come together. We’re all cisgendered and we navigate through a very interesting world where queerness meets mainstream, meets underground, meets everything.
“It’s that moment in time that makes us very unique and we’re very open about that, it’s very much a through line in our work.”
The queer experience in our communities can often be divided down gender lines so for a show that is about strong women and hearing their stories, what does the group want their queer male audience to take away from the experience?
“I know there is going to be a lot of love for them, from our costume choices in particular.”
But outside of the fabulous costume connection there’s a real sense of unity in what Busty and the crew are seeking to do. Briefs is their brother show, which they feel will help connect their audiences and deliver their message.
“We really want people to take away that feeling, that we are in this together, we want to create a change and we know where that change has to happen. In solidarity with each other.
“We see all the things, we see where there is the oppression. We know that. We know where things aren’t right and where there is inequality. So definitely we want our queer male audience to really understand this is something that is really important to know: that we can make change and that’s something we can do in solidarity with each other.”
But this theatrical journey has not been confined to Australia. These women have taken the world by storm, performing on some of the most prestigious stages across the globe.
They have also taken out a string of awards at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, UK Total Theatre Awards, Helpmann Awards and the Green Room Awards. Now Hot Brown Honey return to bring their magic back to the Brisbane stage. This stellar performance is definitely one to see with a group of friends.
Hot Brown Honey plays April 4 – 7 at Brisbane Powerhouse, presented by Brisbane Powerhouse in association with Women of the World at Festival 2018.