On the pamphlets and bits of advertising we’d seen, this year’s Adelaide Fringe Festival return of Hot Brown Honey promised to be bigger. It promised to be bolder. It promised to be browner. And as we danced our way out of The Menagerie last night, it was pretty safe to say that the production delivered well on all fronts.
Full disclosure: I’d already been introduced to these Honeys and their show at the Fringe last year. It was by far one of the standout shows of the season and so, when the invitation came by to attend their show this week, I knew I would be stupid to pass the opportunity up. The first thing I noticed was of course, the upgrade in venue size – graduating from the smaller UKIYO tent in the Royal Croquet Club, to the larger Menagerie, it was clear from the onset the impact Hot Brown Honey had on Adelaide audiences the last time round, enough to warrant more space.
What is wonderful about this kind of production is that while the messages are clear cut and delivered fiercely and with unbridled levels of passion, the entertainment and elements of sheer fun are never ignored or drowned out. In this cast of performers, you have six distinctive and endearing personalities – each given their own time to shine.
Whether it’s in some incredible vocal performances or stunning aerial work, Hot Brown Honey is as multi-faceted as it is hilarious and shocking. ‘Fighting the power never tasted so sweet,’ MC Busty Beatz delivers throughout the show, her spoken word and comic timing providing some true highlights of show. Lisa Fa’alafi (now two years running in Adelaide) came on through and stood out like the goddamn Samoan queen she is; from donning gorgeous modernised Taupou dress and fitting siva into choreography, to wildly rocking out in her ‘native’ Polynesian leaves to Azealia Banks’ “212” a few scenes later, the dancer and choreographer is always going to be one strong shining light of the Hot Brown Honey company.
Once again, Crystal Stacey‘s aerial work left me speechless, even though I was aware of her talent previously. There was something about her “Pendulum” routine that was more visceral than it had appeared to be the last time I’d seen her; as she writhed and tangled herself up mid-air, the message behind the piece was rammed home harder than I remember it being previously. The tiny performer has the ability to make your heart skip a beat as you watch her frame glide through the air at one moment, then become jarred and tangled in the next. Simply amazing.
Hot Brown Honey is unapologetic in its in-your-face approach and for that, I’m always going to be grateful. These women take on cultural and gender stereotypes in a bold, vibrant way. They celebrate diversity and the wealth of cultural experiences we can stand to learn from each other, given an open mind and open heart and aren’t afraid to get a little left-field in projecting their message.
If there’s one negative I came away from the show with, it was the venue set up. While it’s obviously a necessity for the show to now be in a larger space, I did feel like some of the intimacy we’d experienced at their UKIYO show last year was lost, purely because of the set up. Instead of the seating surrounding the stage, The Menagerie sees a more traditional set up, with seats stacked in rows opposite the stage. While the cast did their best to get fully immersed in the crowd when needed, it felt like we were strictly watching a performance take place, as opposed to being completely a part of the experience.
This shouldn’t stop you from seeing these mamas do their thing at any point however, it was just a niggling point that nicked at me throughout. Hot Brown Honey has adapted to meet the expectations of the growing crowds and they’ve adapted well. Sassy, brilliantly clever and hilarious in their delivery, these women are here to entertain and educate and want their crowds to make noise, dance and be as involved as possible – just don’t touch their hair.
See this show while it’s at the Royal Croquet Club.
Hot Brown Honey will be running at The Menagerie in the Royal Croquet Club until March 6th. Grab tickets here!