HOT BROWN HONEY
Briefs Factory, The York Theatre, Until 27th January
My Two Pence
By Penny Warwick
Hot Brown Honey is more than a show, it is an embodiment of sexual liberation, a celebration of matriarchal ideas and a call to action for a better tomorrow through education and awareness of inherent societal privilege and racial divides.
It’s not like anything you have ever seen. Certainly not in Vancouver.
Described as more of a rock show than a theatre piece (accurate - partially) the audience is provided with earplugs to help prepare them for the onslaught of these fierce females and the substance supports the spectacle. The tech in the show is clean and tight. The costuming is perfect. The staging is simple and effective. I want to jump into talking about the performance itself because there is so much to say, but know that these elements are spot on. To avoid spoilers, ignore the following paragraph, and just know – I’m saying that it’s bloody excellent.
The performers were electrifying on opening night, each taking part in group scenes/skits as well as having their own solo numbers. In this way the shows burlesque roots are shown and the format worked very well. Of the solos, I particularly enjoyed the reverse-burlesque-strip of the ‘mythical soft polynesian maiden’ proudly displaying her two nipples (no pasties? Shocking! Controversial! Real!) complimented with two middle fingers; the most epic beatbox performance I have ever witnessed; the poinient reversal of a lady dressed in a ballgown manufactured from the Australian flag returning to her freedom in aboriginal print through dance; the quintessential bad-white-person on vacation told hilariously and so-close-to-truth-cringily with an incredible hoop number; however, the showstopper undoubtibly was the aerial number towards the end of the show which had me in tears with its perfectly imperfect actualization and gut-wrenching raw emotion.
There were a few audience interactions, the first working incredibly well, but the second which involved a ‘coconut woman’ being undressed as part of a raffle prize fell on the wrong side of the message due to the unfortunate winner, a man who was uncomfortably into what I think was supposed to be a slap-in-the-face to sleazy men. It was unfortunate that in this all-female display of feminist wonder, all of the people who were invited to stage were men.
There is so much to unpack in this production. Prepare for a feeling of uncomfortableness as you are confronted with Vancouver’s own crimes (‘Our home ON Native Land’, anyone?) and on multiple occasions instructed to check your privilege. This is something which has become more of a discussion point in mainstream media in the last few years, and as I even write that sentence I, myself, am confronted shamefully with my privilege as a white person that ‘this is something which has become more of a discussion point in mainstream media in the last few years’. Wake Up, Rise Up, Stand Up! Is one of many notable mantras from the group. And I certainly left the show with a renewed sense of wanting to be more educated, more vocal and, importantly, more respectful as an ally. I know there are times where an ally can actually do more harm than good through ignorance. However, we are without excuse. These incredible, inspirational women make it very clear indeed that ambivalence and avoidance are no longer acceptable. We are all responsible for changing the world by fighting alongside our fellow human beings against injustices, past and present, so that they do not become our future.
“You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. And you have to do it all the time” Dr Angela Davis (quoted in the program notes)
So, Vancouver, it’s time to MAKE NOISE. Fight the power. Lift the matriarchy. Decolonize and moisturise. Go and see Hot Brown Honey.