Review: Hot Brown Honey. Nottingham Playhouse

In the immortal words of Missey Elliot…’DJ, please, pick up your phone, I’m on the request line’… I will also add that I’m not hanging up unless I get a dose of Hot Brown Honey every day, intravenously. It’s not a matter of wanting, this is very much a need situation. I’m watching this show feeling like ‘where have these women been all my life’ But I’m sure if I put that question, and my feelings to them, they’d tell me their work was done.

It’s nearly ten years into this show of world domination: seven spectacular antipodean goddesses that roar with intelligence and power. Each one an individual artist in their own right, but in Hot Brown Honey, they join forces to challenge, inspire, and, quite honestly, slay.

First thing’s first: there is a hell of a lot of sass in here tonight, and that’s just the audience – we’re a wave of smiles and delight as members of Hot Brown Honey beckon us to take our seats and enjoy the show.

Tonight is the ladies’ final night of this pure, primal, gorgeous celebration of revolution, but energy is in no danger of fleeting – you’d even be forgiven for assuming it was their opening night!

It’s all over in a 75-minute flash: a collage of humour, dance, burlesque, song, and riveting circus. Each movement challenging various stereotypes women face: they’re thrust in the spotlight and interrogated with wit, at times bare naked breasts, and raw, fierce talent that’s undeniable.

Conceived and written by Lisa Fa’Alafi AKA The Game Changer and Kim ‘Busty Beatz’ Bowers, Hot Brown Honey booms it’s social commentary on important topics far and wide, spearing them through the centre, their unashamed loudness dishing out perspective and truth in generous portions. Wildly and wonderfully feministic, the cast – all first nations women – salute their heritage and the underrepresented right from the start. I search the crowd for the odd crossed arms or rolled eyes to signal their alienation, but I find no one. The early satire of the boyband and depiction of toxic masculinity gets a rapturous response, and it’s at this point I understand how effectively their infectious confidence is immersing and including us all.

Bowers is currently unavailable to perform due to her ongoing battle with breast cancer. However, in her place, ensemble member, Ofa Fotu AKA The Myth Slayer, radiates as Busty Beatz. Bowers’ absence is addressed immediately, but this isn’t communicated with sadness, they only rejoice in her continued strength and pay tribute to all survivors and those who lost their brave fight. To me, it’s an instant indication of what kind of people and performers these women are: their positivity and boldness charges the room, and we all feel like we can do something silly, like, I don’t know, take on the world? I mean, Christ, this is only a Monday night!

Innovative, synchronised dance by director/ choreographer Fa’Alafi is executed with a sort of uncontrollable control: fast, frenzied pieces speaking to us with precision, joy, and at times a delicate poignancy: perhaps the best representation of this is watching Mayu Muto AKA ‘The Gravity Defier’s’ Aerialist expertise as she tells a story of oppression and the capacity to overcome it.

A showcase of true talent ranging from beatboxing, hoop dancing and general circus extraordinaries, I’m compelled to mention the set design by Tristan Shelly, who’s fabulous construction of a tower of honey serves as Busty’s own beehive, enabling her to command from the top, preaching revolution that strikes our chords, yanking on it until we’re on our feet, moving to her words and rhythm.

Paul Lim’s technical and lighting design, at times, makes me feel like we’re racing towards a head on collision, but it’s beautiful, bright and burning – you can’t look away.

Costumes play a vital role in expressing the narrative, perhaps more so than any other performance I’ve seen, and best displayed in Fa’Alafi’s depiction of a primitive woman’s transformation to a self-made warrior/ idol.

The entire performance leaves us insatiable. Its thought-provoking, moving and an absolute blast. The audience is its own beehive, incorporating a wide demographic: old, young, men, women, they, them. Its utter bliss. And I’m devastated it’s over.

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