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Home » Behind the Performance » An explosion of colour, culture and controversy: Q+A with Hot Brown Honey’s Queen Bee, Busty Beatz

An explosion of colour, culture and controversy: Q+A with Hot Brown Honey’s Queen Bee, Busty Beatz

Coco Sugar Lips. Photo by Dylan Evans.

Busty Beatz, the Queen Bee, chats with us about the tour de force, Hot Brown Honey. “Hot Brown Honey turns up the heat, delivering lashings of sass and a hot pinch of empowerment in the smash-hit that took the Edinburgh Fringe by storm.”
For those who are perhaps unfamiliar with Hot Brown Honey, can you share a bit about the show?
Busty Beatz: Hot Brown Honey is a theatrical explosion of colour, culture and controversy! With a cast of phenomenal women with global First Nations heritage—including Xhosa (South African), Tongan, Triestina-Warramirri (Aboriginal Australian) Samoan, Indonesian and Maori—the show represents how we as black and brown women, as women of colour, intersect, smash stereotypes, poke fun at the world around us, and rock the boat. Hot Brown Honey crosses forms and defies labels. Fierce and empowering, we are the latest models of our ancestry. We are here. Centrestage. Welcome to the hive and hold onto your seats because fighting the power never tasted so sweet!

What was your and Lisa Fa’alafi’s inspiration for the show? What was their creative standpoint / inspiration? How has the show changed and evolved since that time?
BB: Hot Brown Honey started as a club night for black and brown women/femmes/non binary artists to tell their stories—those of us that do not fit the boxes or adhere to the tropes that are so limited across the stage, page and screen. Lisa and I decided it was time for these women to be written onto stage. The show has evolved and continues to be an evolving entity. As we never had the funds available to develop the show in a traditional sense, we used small pockets of time and live seasons to work on the show, getting audience responses as we went along.

Fans. Photo by Dylan Evans.

The set design looks outrageous and completely outstanding in every press photo we’ve seen to date. Can you tell us a bit about the set?
BB: The Hot Brown Honey set is actually a living entity—she is The Mother. She speaks, she dances and she tells it like it is!  We had a dream of a giant Beehive for the Honeys but she came into full fruition through the design brain of Lisa collaborating with architect Tristan Shelley. Our lighting designer Paul Lim was hit the magnitude of the Matriarchy and was inspired to create the most lit force to be reckoned with.

As an all-female cast, what would you say are Hot Brown Honey’s main themes / messages?
BB: As artists we exist on the edges, fringes and margins, so the mainstream gates remain closed to us. However, it’s on the edges where we create vital art. It’s on the fringes where we critique the status quo, dismantling and redefining our identities through brilliant creativity. It’s on the margins where we become advocates for each other’s work. We find ways to include each other, work together and raise each other up. Hot Brown Honey is our attempt to break through those gates, to play the stages as the leads, to gather some of our talented sisters and give voice and reclaim stories from misconstrued and twisted images that bombard our televisions and newspapers, while having a shitload of fun doing it. We have created a space to tell our stories and create theatrical representations to counter and dismantle structural oppression, stereotypes and daily micro-aggressions. It is the space where we decolonize and rematriate. It is where we re-imagine our identities and our world as a Matriarchy. We actually have a cast of thousands but due to budgetary limitations we have a stellar company of six representing: Lisa Fa’alafi—The Game Changer, Ofa Fotu—The Myth Slayer, Hope One The Beatboxer, Crystal Stacey—The Peace Maker, Elena Wangurra—The Soul Soother and myself, Busty Beatz—The Queen Bee.

Hair. Photo by Dylan Evans.

The costumes are so over the top, magnificent, and really a feast for the eyes. Who’s the costume designer and can you tell us a bit about the overall (and perhaps some specific) costuming?
BB: Lisa Fa’alafi is the designer (as well as director, writer, choreographer and performer!) She has an extraordinary eye for design and costume that works in tandem with her theatre-making. She constantly interrogates the notion of the “exotic” as well as explodes pop culture references. As we were making the show, ideas sparked the design and visa versa; it was an organic process. Lisa’s design of the final costumes, where each Honey comes out in a custom designed superhero suit, also features the woven stars of Mary Ann Talia Pau’s One Million Star Against Violence project.

Hot Brown Honey has been referred to as “unapologetically political”. How would you describe political theatre and how does this show fit the bill?
BB: Political theatre is all about pushing the envelope, confronting and celebrating unheard stories. Hot Brown Honey adds a huge dollop of tongue in cheek using satire of social narratives to flip the script. In the Words of Elder Angela Davis: “You have to act as if it where possible to radically transform the world. And you have to do it all the time.” This is how we do it!

Please describe the show in just three words.
BB: Radical. Fierce. Love. Screen Shot 2015-09-12 at 10.17.41 AM

Briefs Factory’s Hot Brown Honey runs January 9–27, 2018 at The Cultch. Get your tickets here.

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A killer Musical Director, brilliant composer, remarkable remixer and sought after sound designer, South African born Busty Beatz has been making music and theatre for over 20 years. This beat-making Mama is the Co Artistic Director of Black Honey Company, currently Artist in Residence at La Boite Theatre Company. As well as a creator and performer, Busty Beatz is an infamous DJ leading audiences onto the dance floor at major Festivals around the globe.