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TNC Fringe Archive 2016

Hot Brown Honey

Walking away from the Assembly Roxy I'll admit it. I had to sit for a minute or two and gather my thoughts after seeing Hot Brown Honey. With Busty Beatz's #RadicalFierceLove mantra still fresh in my head, I had to sit because as a man of colour, it is rare to see a show that is as unflinching, bold, and unapologetically proud as Hot Brown Honey was. 

People of colour aren't nearly as welcome or invited to stand atop an illuminated beehive on an Edinburgh Fringe stage to tell you how this shit is going to go down. Even less can be said for women of colour being afforded the opportunity to share their heritage, wisdom, and sophistication at one of the world's most important arts festivals. But that all changed in 2016. 

Walking into Roxy Central, the Hot Brown Honey crew greet their audience with high fives and smiles, which instantly puts you at ease. As far as first impressions go, it doesn't get any bigger or better than this, and after the sellout audience takes their seats, DJ and musical director Kim "Busty Beatz" Bowers' voice reigns down on the audience from atop the hive, with every word finding its target.

The strength and determination in Beatz's delivery and words throughout the whole of the show are reminiscent of those black activists' voices from the American 60s, yet only in style, as Beatz's words are musically poetic and grab you tightly.

The effect is quite mesmerising, as Beatz articulates through the introduction of what Hot Brown Honey is all about. No hate, no judgment, no fear. These women of colour have had enough and are not being silent anymore. They are certainly no longer tied to the shackles of patriarchy or this notion that women of colour are the ‘exotic’ ones. A mixture of synchronised lighting through the intricate hive, designed by director Lisa Fa’alafi, and with the heavy base, one can’t deny the surge that goes through you within the first five minutes of this show.

After some ‘rules of the hive’ from Beatz, the show begins, and from here on in, the moments created by the company continue to imprint this impression on you that is never going to leave you.

By using elements of burlesque, circus, cabaret, music, performance, and speech Hot Brown Honey does the impossible in creating a show that is so fundamentally politically charged, with traces of ancient and unaddressed anger and frustration, yet remains overwhelmingly positive. This is that history lesson you wish you’d been taught in school by women who’ve experienced, witnessed, and shown what can be achieved when you embrace your creativity and don’t sit idle.


No matter the depths the group reaches down to in order to unpack their story, their sense of fun is balanced but the emotional significance is never lost. Early on in the show, Ofa Fotu comes onto the stage dressed as Coco Sugar Lips and begins singing It’s A Man’s World, which captivates. And for the first time at the fringe, I’ll forgive the youthful audience for not getting or understanding the racist reference. Though the ‘Golliwog’ has long been banished from our consciousness, as Beatz explains at the end of Fotu number, that’s not the case in the Australia Post Office. 

The company's willingness to look at the many issues that women of colour face is further explored by aerialist Crystal Stacey, who runs onto a darkly lit stage simply wearing a nightdress and stockings. Whilst a phone recording between the police and a victim is played out, Stacey stands centre stage looking directly into the audience. Her screams are chilling, and at one point, I genuinely thought that someone from the audience was going to get up on stage.

Though it could appear that with so much history and stories to tell, trying to maintain a balance between the humour, history, politics, and narratives would be their Achilles heel for the production, that is just the opposite.

There is a power in theatre that can unnerve audiences, providing them with a range of emotions that can be conflicting at times. Hot Brown Honey is a show about women of colour, their experiences, what their daily lives entail, their struggles, their longing to be silent voices, and the issues they face and encounter in the societies they are part of. Director and co-creator Lisa Fa’alafi presents a masterclass in how you can create a show that never holds back, never apologises and never asks for permission to stand tall, proud and strong.


In offering a space for women of colour to have their voices heard, fellow co-creators and sisters Candy Band and Kim Bowers ensure that at the centre of everything they do is the power and voice of women of colour. However, the creative team seems only too aware that not all of their audience is going to understand or ‘get’ what is being said, so to counter this, Beatz simply restates her point over and over again till it sticks.

This was most effectively used during the song "Don’t Touch My Hair." While maintaining the show's high-spirited honour and, at times, tongue-in-cheek tone, the song makes a blunt statement that will make people think twice about approaching a stranger and touching their afro.

'From the start, this was bound to be an unexpected show, but the hour and five minutes take you somewhere else altogether.'

The lyrics of the song would have a resounding effect on anybody of colour who has had to suffer the indignity of a stranger touching their hair. There is a sickening privilege that some still believe they have over people of colour and that ‘our’ hair is fair game for random hands to come and fondle.

But as the show comes to an end, Hot Brown Honey saved their most salient and impactful statement for the end. I feel that asking the performers, now all clad in maid uniforms, to ‘take a step forward if they're privileged...’ and a series of questions are asked that I feel greatly underpins what this whole show is about. The final question brought tears to my eyes as they hit upon a global epidemic that black people and people of colour are facing with the issue getting much worse than better.

There’s no real way to justifiably explain the experience of watching Hot Brown Honey. From the start, this was bound to be an unexpected show, but the hour and five minutes take you somewhere else altogether. Negative racial stereotypes rage from a supposed innocent ‘doll’ to people wanting to touch your hair to other much more subtle but all the more painful questions like ‘but where are you really from?’

Unpacking all of this is a company of performers who have embraced their identity, taken control over their stories, their bodies, and their history, and produced a show that celebrates the exceptional talent, beauty, and resilience that women of colour have.

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