Whilst you file into Teviot’s Debating Hall for Hot Brown Honey’s political and cultural awareness-raising cabaret performance, the female cast members weave through the aisles to greet you. Their dynamism and smiles as they hand out raffle tickets set the tone for the seventy-minute performance. You will be engaged, mesmerized, heartened, but you will not sit still.
Energy and volume characterise this veteran Fringe show from Australia. The booming bass rattled my chest, but I was too busy stomping and clapping and wooing to the beat to notice. It is a testament to the performers’ magnetism and stamina that the audience matched the cast’s enthusiasm. I, for one, was either grinning or had my mouth agape the entire show.
The smiles and cheers for the gyrating and beatboxing and singing only stopped when the show turned to more sensitive topics. Crystal Stacey disarmed the audience with her aerial sling set about domestic abuse. Her movements, at once graceful and violent, brutal and vulnerable, exemplify Hot Brown Honey’s unique position. They are irate because they face injustices; they are joyful because their bodies and voices can affect change. Their talents—beatboxing, singing, dancing, hula-hooping—allow the performers to preach without didacticism.
If the dances, like Yami “Rowdy” Lofvenberg’s set dressed up as the racist golliwog doll, sear into the mind’s eye, Ofa Fotu’s Busty Beatz empowering mantras echo in the ears for days afterwards. “The revolution cannot happen without childcare.” “Decolonize, moisturize.” “Don’t touch my hair.” “Fight the power.” The show hits quite a number of hot topics, but the passionate repetition and catchy rhymes stamp each one into memory.
To conclude by saying that Hot Brown Honey is a romp that leaves you yearning for a dance party risks reducing the show to its entertainment value. The show is entertaining, to the highest degree. But it also encourages the audience to interrogate our own culpability or privilege in a world that too often devalues the voices of women of color.
Once you have tasted the honey, there is no going back. Back to misinformation or ignorance, that is. There is a high probability you will be back to see Hot Brown Honey two or three times more.
Hot Brown Honey, Gilded Balloon Teviot – Debating Hall, Until 27th August (not 23rd), 7:30pm