OzAsia Review: Hot Brown Honey

Hot Brown Honey is the punchy, vibrant show that Adelaide keeps coming back for. A powerful addition to the OzAsia Festival program, it’s a wild genre-defying romp featuring burlesque, comedy, song, cabaret, dance, poetry, beat boxing, striptease, and circus acts. From high-energy hula hooping to soulful ballads, the show encompasses a range of talents and acts that render it practically unclassifiable.

Led by Busty Beatz, the Honeys are a superb multicultural cast of black, brown and mixed beauties. In a country with very few coloured faces in the media, having some colour in the spotlight is satisfying. The talent, humour, and determination that the Honeys display on stage is inspirational in many ways, yet they do not seek to simply entertain, but also educate and empower. The Honeys’ strong political message is fiery, invigorating, and worth noting.

Perceptions of gender, colour, and privilege are deconstructed on this stage. The Honeys are here to empower the audience to make a change; the show is a rallying call. Particular cultural reflections and references may go over some audience members’ heads, but it doesn’t infringe on your enjoyment of the show or on the message that you take away from it. For me, missing little titbits of information just gave an incentive to go and see Hot Brown Honey a second time.

There is something completely fresh about the way that the artists examine, dispute, and break down stereotypes on stage. Highlights include: a satirical reverse striptease about the fetishised ‘exotic’ stereotype of the ‘Polynesian Princess’; some raunchy lesbian beatboxing which had some very, uh, hands-on audience participation; and the supremely talented Ofa Fotu performing a soulful rendition of ‘It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World’ dressed as a Golliwog doll. These acts are insightful and meaningful, while also being wildly entertaining.

Every single act either deeply moved me, made me roar with laughter, or both. Yet there was one in particular that stands out as exceptional. Crystal Stacey, the youngest team member, performs a deeply provocative and moving aerial act about domestic violence. While she dangles from the ceiling on two ropes, with no harness or protection, Stacey throws herself about wildly as if she is being beaten. It’s confronting, and sometimes difficult to watch. The act concludes with Stacey, centre stage, hanging by her neck from the rope.

Hot Brown Honey is a firecracker of show. It doesn’t hold back in delivering an intelligent and fierce night of entertainment. The performance shatters stereotypes, encourages decolonisation, and inspires change. It is a celebration of diversity, respect, and identity. These Honeys have a powerful sting in their tails, and they’re not to be missed. Be prepared to get involved and make noise, as the show relies on audience engagement. Hot Brown Honey has three remaining Adelaide shows: Thursday 28th September 7pm; Friday 29th September 9pm; and Saturday 30th September 9pm. I cannot recommend it enough.

Wake up. Stand up. Rise up. Make Noise.

Image: Thinkhouse

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