ED2018 Cabaret ED2018 Caro Meets ED2018 Interviews ED2018 Preview Edition

Lisa Fa’alafi: Hot Brown Honey

By | Published on Sunday 10 June 2018

Last week we interviewed a past TW Editors’ Award winner – and look – here we are doing it again. For last summer we gave one of our TW gongs to the team behind ‘Hot Brown Honey’. I think this means we will now have to interview another past winner next week – you know how we like doing things in threes.

Anyway, if you’ve been to the Festival at all these last two years, you’ll probably have heard about this incredible and important show, and if you haven’t, then wow, do you have a treat in store this August.

To find out more about what you should all expect from’Hot Brown Honey’ – and how it came together – I spoke to Lisa Fa’alafi, also known as The Game Changer, who co-created the production with writer Busty Beatz, and is also the director, choreographer and designer of it. And yes, she performs in the show too. Phew.

CM: Right. Let’s start with an intro to what you do. For anyone who hasn’t seen the show yet: what genre and style should they expect?
LF: We like to call ‘Hot Brown Honey’ a genre defying, theatrical explosion! Some have referred to the work as hard to describe, some say its energised theatre, some say social commentary, others say it’s the best pumping political party in town and will have you dancing out of the building! For me, why pick a category? We, as artists, love many styles, so we are going to pick the way that tells the story the best, the forms that elevate the artists and audiences to feel the feelings.

But I get it, you got to market shows right? SO…. if you want to see theatre that ignites hope, mixed with a nightclub that inspires change, where you are invited to dance on the mistakes of your ancestors and pave a new path, then ‘Hot Brown Honey’ is for you!

We take our audience on a ride full of fun, joyous rage and ridiculousness because, to be honest, laughter can help bind us. Comedy is one of the best tools to dismantle issues we often want to push under that dusty couch in the corner. We also go there with satire, cabaret and burlesque as well as hip hop, indigenous languages, dance, song and circus – this is our world Mother Lovers!

CM: Tell us about the themes that drive the show.
LF: We live in a time where voices are rising to be heard. A time where movements like #metoo #blackgirlmagic #enoughisenough are at the forefront. A time when #blacklivesmatter are hitting our Facebook feeds asking everyone to examine our own position in the world.

‘Hot Brown Honey’ is another link towards change for a better future. We have created a platform to share our stories about gender, race, inequality and empowerment, providing a space to collectively celebrate our potential. Every theme from embracing the Matriarchy, to daily microagressions, addressing privilege and complicit behaviour, to our own struggles with the decolonising process are pivotal factors in our everyday life truths.

By putting it on stage we get to shine a light on our intersecting experiences where we confront our similarities and celebrate our differences.

CM: The political intentions obviously stand out. Do you think a show like this can effect any change in the way people think?
LF: Yes, ‘Hot Brown Honey’ is a political and social activism piece at its heart, and yes I think the work can and has changed the way people think, whether they have loved it or hated it.

For us it’s about creating conversations. We have performed across Australia, New Zealand, Edinburgh, Manchester, Calgary and Vancouver, and the biggest feedback from audiences so far is that many come away feeling empowered to do something. While we use our platform to tell our stories, we ask audiences to participate and be accountable for interrogating their own views. We ask them to stand and shout, to make noise, to make change. And they do!

It even shocks us when we see an entire crowd on their feet shouting, dancing and celebrating with us. Celebrating the representation of WoC – fierce, talented and centre stage! It is really clear that audiences want to see their communities reflected on stage, they want to see themselves reflected back, they want more and so do we!

For our black, brown, mixed sisters their support and feedback has been humbling. We have gathered a huge amount of phenomenal women willing to spread the word, helping with everything from sewing costumes, designing, social media, shout outs, writing papers, drawing comics, writing songs. It is truly inspiring.

In the words of Audre Lorde: “the masters tools will never dismantle the masters house”. In the case of ‘Hot Brown Honey’, we have stolen the keys, turned up the beats and started a riot.

CM: What inspired you to create a show like this in the first place? What were your motivations?
LF: ‘Hot Brown Honey’ has been inspired by those who have come before us, the fierce women throughout Herstory who have made pathways, such as Audre Lorde for her poetry and intimacy, Aboriginal artist and activist Lilla Watson for her determination for her people’s self-determination, Chimamanda Ngozie Adiche for her spoken word and insights that makes us feel our power.

Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera for starting a riot, Miriam Makeba for singing her activism even when exiled from her home, Aiono Anafi Le Tagalog for her incredible critiques on being a Samoan Feminist, Missy Elliott for bringing the body love and beats that make you dance all night.

Our great grandmothers, grandmothers, mothers, aunties, sisters and daughters who stood strong and those who still stand strong. We are the Latest Models of our Ancestry and it is our responsibility to represent! Word to The Mother.

CM: How did you go about creating the show? What was the process?
LF: Making independent work forces you to be smart. Money is forever non-existent, and resources limited. Originally ‘Hot Brown Honey’ started as a club night inviting WOC/FOC artists to come perform as well as test material. This is why we have such an affiliation with the Cocoa Butter Club and what they are doing now in London and Melbourne. They are magnificent.

Busty and myself have been working together for 20 years across artforms and as senior artists we were sick of having no spaces for the kooky, political, funny, art we had been making most of our careers. We sat down and wrote a show that we wanted to see, something that reflected our experiences filled with crazy entertainment, phat beats that were like the ear worms and played with bending forms such as cabaret and burlesque.

We had a clear vision to create a work that represented a unique point of view coming out of Australia that wasn’t blue eyes, ‘Neighbours’, ‘Home And Away’ unreality. We then sneakily wrapped the whole show up with a bright brown ribbon of activist theatre.

CM: How did the performers come together? Did they all know each other before starting work on the show?
LF: Busty and I knew of all the performers. As artists we exist on the fringes as often these mainstream gates remained closed to us, but it’s in these fringes where we become advocates for each other’s work. We find ways to include each other, work together, raise each other up.

‘Hot Brown Honey’ is our attempt to break through those gates and play the stages as the leads, to gather our talented sisters and provide a platform for them to reclaim their stories from misconstrued, twisted images that bombard our televisions and newspapers. We have a shitload of fun doing it.

CM: For those who have seen the show, and might be considering another viewing, has it changed at all since previous runs in Edinburgh?
LF: ‘Hot Brown Honey’ is forever morphing and growing, but essentially it’s the same high-octane experience as previous years, although we do have a few surprises in the works!

This time we get to fill the Gilded Balloon’s Debating Hall, so we are going bigger than our last two years. We have been overwhelmed by how many people have come out in previous years to support us and continue to see us over and over again, bringing their sisters, their mums, their friends, their husbands!

We sold out the last two years so we will be aiming high again this year and hoping this for our final year at Ed Fringe will create Herstory.

CM: As you said, this is the third time you’ve been to Edinburgh. What keeps you coming back?
LF: Edinburgh Fringe is an amazing platform to showcase work and for us it has been integral to our World Pollination strategy!! We are really clear that this show is for the people – Game Changers, Truth Sayers, Movers, Music Makers, Myth Slayers, Shake em up Women, Queens, Queers, Peace Makers and Risk Takers. Ed Fringe is where the people are, open- minded, ready to connect and make some noise!

CM: What’s your favourite thing about the Festival city?
LF: The amount of artistic energy in one place at the same time. It’s powerful. The creative revolution starts here!

CM: Are there any downsides to the Edinburgh Fringe?
LF: The biggest hurdle for us is affording to come. With a team of ten plus traveling with two small children it’s epic even considering to fly over from Australia. The investment is huge and not taken lightly by any of our team. So it’s all hands on deck, flyering, as many extra spots as we can handle, connecting with the local community, juggling the babysitting, finding time for selfcare, doing the washing and taking the Word Of The Mother to the streets!

CM: What are you looking forward to this time? Are there any shows you’re interested in seeing?
LF: Edinburgh Fringe has the globe’s most cutting-edge work – it’s revolutionary! Going to get to see some of our faves this year – Le Gateau Chocolat, Djuki Mala and Apphia Campbell. Our Brother crew Briefs are returning to the Fringe with ‘Close Encounters’ which features a soundtrack like no other by Busty Beatz.

As we have for the past two years we will endeavour to find as many black, indigenous and WOC artists as we can and support the hell out of their brilliance, giving them all the #RadicalFierceLove we can muster!

CM: Do you have plans for further shows as a troupe?
LF: ‘Hot Brown Honey’ is a platform and will continue to act as one, just as we grew from underground club nights to playing the Sydney Opera House, we see taking an even bigger step and write a version with a cast of 200. Look out West End! We have you in our World Pollination sights!

CM: And in the nearer future, what else is in the diary in the coming months?
LF: At this point ‘Hot Brown Honey’ have activated the next level – GOLD! We are super excited about playing at the London Southbank Centre at the end of July. What a trip! To perform in London is the ultimate. Decolonising the Elizabeth Hall Theatre, priceless!

In amazing news, Busty Beatz and myself are creating a new work with a league of extraordinary Femmes Of Colour in collaboration with the London Roundhouse called ‘Hive City Legacy’. With a fresh coat of intersecting tales from a new London Town, this project allows us to stretch our directorial wings and create some buzz with some amazing emerging performers, set to be performed early July – don’t miss it!

We are also in the process of making an album with brilliant artists from across the globe as well being in talks for a superhero feature film. The legacy continues!

‘Hot Brown Honey’ was performed at Gilded Balloon Teviot at Edinburgh Festival 2018.

LINKS: hotbrownhoney.com