Friday, March 6, 2015

HOT BROWN HONEY at the 2015 Adelaide Fringe

Hot Brown Honey.

Presented by Black Honey Company and Briefs Factory Ukiyo at the Royal Croquet Club. Victoria Square/Tarntanyangga. February 13 - March 15.

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

Hot Brown Honey. Photo by Dylan Evans

During the show, lively and forceful Hot Brown Honey DJ says to the audience “What we are is so much more.” How true that is. The female cast from Northern Queensland and Polynesia serve up a smattering of Hip Hop, dance, poetry, song, comedy, circus and striptease. It’s all done with a bold display of irreverent fun and black politics that soon had the audience laughing and clapping along with the colourful display of satire and self-mockery.

What the show lacks is discipline and direction. There are good ideas, serious comment on race and identity, brash, carefree humour and an abundance of undeveloped talent. Food for thought is left undigested. Dance routines and circus skills are carelessly denied the artistry of carefully choreographed purpose. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the decision to draw some unsuspecting audience member into a coconut dance, or an assault with inflated breasts or the battle with a giant coconut, from which, Botticelli-like a maiden rises to celebrate the power of the coconut. It may be good fun for the audience, but it seems largely unnecessary and a distraction from the real potential of the show.

There is abundant talent in the show. A hula hoop artist flagrantly displays her disrespect for other cultures. Unfortunately mistake and misjudgement is sloppily disregarded when slick exhibition of hula hoopery would have transfixed the audience. Moments of magic are too quickly cast aside, such as the routine with the black woman in a white man’s world, trapped by a tutu and desperately seeking her true self. There is power in the theme and with a director’s strong and insightful hand, such a moment could have made for compelling theatre. The aerialist, subjugated to another will, devalued and abused, offers a poignant and powerful moment that hangs in the air without clear context. Without a clear thematic context, and the skill to develop a spine to this cabaret performance, the audience is treated to a series of vignettes that leave one unsatisfied. There is the unexplored vocal dynamism of the black voice, soulful and absorbing or the clever vocal gymnastics of the attendant helper who finally has her moment on the stage.

Hot Brown Honey has the potential to be a first class act. A firm directorial vision, and dedicated practice to thread together the serious commentary of the women’s stories would make this a show not to be missed. Its message is too important to be cast so carelessly aside; the talents of the performers too precious to be given such short thrift and disregard. Only then will an audience fully savour the real power of the art and the message of Hot Brown Honey.