Hot Brown Honey: The Remix — exhilarating, liberating

publicity photo for Hot Brown Honey: The Remix

Yes, the Honeys do a fan dance — on their own terms. (Photo by Alan Moyle)

Hot Brown Honey: The Remix is one of the best political rallies you’ve ever going to attend — because it’s also a big, loud, slick party.

The Honeys, as they call themselves, are an ever-changing feminist group from Australia that’s made up of Indigenous women and women of colour. Their show, Hot Brown Honey: The Remix, is a revue/spectacle in which they take on banner-like issues in a succession of freewheeling formats: singing, dancing, rapping, hoop spinning, an aerial act …

Hosted by rapper and co-writer Kim “Busty Beatz” Bowers, the performance takes place on and in front of one of the best sets ever. Tristan Shelly has designed a gigantic, hive-shaped mound that’s made up of hexagonal cells — like a honeycomb. Lit from within with computer-programmed cues that spell out things like “Fuck the patriarchy” and “Love, Respect”, in Paul Lim’s lighting design, it can also be lit from outside for dreamier effects.

Speaking of fucking the patriarchy, a whole lot of The Remix is fueled by ferocious female sexuality — let’s call it embodied liberation. If you’re a Vancouverite, you might have seen the original Hot Brown Honey, which The Cultch presented in 2018. The Cultch has already brought that show back once since then, but this is The Remix and some of the new material is fantastically edgy.

In one number, the seven women in the company bring out a bearded young dude who’s wearing a T-shirt that says “Toxic Masculinity” then, as the music blares, in a dance number, they proceed to have their way with him, handing him different masks to wear —Justin Trudeau, Donald Trump, and, (I think) George Washington) — as they pretend to hump him. This turning of the tables is exhilarating, but part of my initial response was, “Uh … assault? Really?” Then I checked in with a lesbian friend who turned me on to the comic-book series “Hothead Paisan: Homocidal Lesbian Terrorist”. That helped a lot. I get it, I get it: rage, release — and reclamation — through fantasy.

A whole lot of The Remix is deliciously unfettered by cautious politics. The company lip syncs, for instance, to Bel Biv DeVoe’s “Poison”, a boy-band hip hop number that’s outrageously sexist: “I know she’s a loser/Me and the crew used to do her.” But, in The Remix, the Honeys both send up that cock-and-balls energy — and claim it for their own pleasure. (I’ll leave you to discover exactly how they do that.)

Before I get off the sexual liberation angle, let me quickly say that beatboxer Hope Haami, who appears in stylized man drag, is both dreamily butch and outrageously talented. The rhythms they lay down are crazily complex.

Four of the women in this cast are different from the bunch I saw four years ago, and they all make strong contributions. Lilikoi Kaos is new to the hula hoop routine, which was also in the first iteration, and they skilfully skewer rude white-tourist behaviour while exhibiting wild skills. Similarly, Mayu Muto is new to the aerial rope routine which, in one of the show’s more sober passages, pays tribute to women who have been silenced by domestic abuse. Muto also brings impressive skills. Alinta McGrady sings the house down.

And, of course, some of the best material from the original show remains. That includes a number in which director and co-writer Lisa Fa’alifi sends up the “resourceful dusky maiden” trope by pretending to fashion an entire haute couture wardrobe, including high heels, from leaves. Throughout the show, the charismatic Fa’alafi, who is an exquisite dancer, is a joy to watch. Along with Colleen Sutherland, she is also credited as costume designer. In the dusky-maiden send-up, the outfit she wears transforms and transforms and transforms. It’s kind of a metaphor for the whole show.

Interwoven with feminism, antiracism and decolonization are fundamental themes in Hot Brown Honey, hence the slogan, “Decolonize. Moisturize.”

Whether or not you’ve seen Hot Brown Honey before, there’s so much to relish and discover in The Remix.

HOT BROWN HONEY: THE REMIX By Kim “Busty Beats” Bowers and Lisa Fa’alfi. Directed by Lisa Fa’alafi. A Quiet Riot production presented by The Cultch. At the York Theatre on Friday, September 23. Running until October 8. Tickets

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About Colin Thomas

Colin Thomas is a Vancouver-based editor, an award-winning playwright, and an established theatre critic. Colin helps writers unlock the full potential of their novels, short stories, screenplays, and children's books.

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