Hot Brown Honey


Briefs Factory presents Hot Brown Honey 

Six vibrant First Nation women wearing identical shellsuits on a stage dominated by a huge gleaming, pulsating honeycomb hub. Our MC is Busty Beatz  (Kim Bowers) a co-founder of Hot Brown Honey and she is loud and  proud and magnificent towering above everyone astride the honey dome. Below is the other founder, Director and Choreographer Lisa Fa’alafi who I met briefly as I took my seat in the theatre. These women are chatty and welcoming as they stroll  around the aisles before the show. They are upfront and direct, almost immediately the audience is told a collection toward their childcare will be passing through the aisles because as Lisa says The Revolution can not happen without  childcare. 

Suddenly the performance ramps up the energy. I can’t fully hear everything. I’m blinking as the lights flash powerfully on the honeycomb dome. The performers are hi octane and nothing is going to stop them. It’s too loud!! It’s too bright!!! It’s too……DO NOT ADJUST YOUR SET. WAKE UP. GET ON BOARD. ROCK THE BOAT. THIS MAY JUST BE THE TRIP OF YOUR LIFE.

There is zero tolerance of stereotyping as MC Beatz quotes from the 2009 TEDTalk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie The Danger of a Single Story. There are no single stories here and this is reinforced by a show that defies any genre. This is burlesque, cabaret, song, beatboxing, hip hop, poetry, hula hooping, aerial silks, sermon and comedy. This is an EVENT and like its orchestrators it cannot be pigeonholed.

This is an intelligent, passionate celebration of womankind in all its colours, shapes and creeds of politics, religion and sexuality. There is a strong burlesque influence running through all aspects of this show. This is burlesque as gender politics defying any attempts at body shaming. Women standing proud and celebrating perfect boobs, giant inflatable  boulder boobs, pussies that may or may not have  seen childbirth, giant padded feline pussies, bodies curvy or lean, skin that gleams or has cellulite or skin blemishes. Women using burlesque to own their own bodies using the frequent vivid costume changes to drive the stories. Fa’alafi describes the experience as the decolonisation of our thoughts and inhibitions. The poet and playwright Maya Angelou was also a burlesque dancer in her early years; and it a very powerful tool of expression and liberation.

There are group sequences ramming home the message We Are Not Maids. Shellsuits are shed to reveal cheeky Princess Megan t-shirts then shed again to reveal maid costumes. MC Beatz dons a massive Afro for the anthem Don’t Touch My Hair.  Fa’alafi delights with a reverse striptease parodying the fantasies of bare breasted Polynesian maidens in grass skirts. This is no coy blushing maiden or unskilled island girl. Our Lisa is surrounded by leaves but deftly fashions shoes and bags like a fashion forward icon. The glorious voice of ‘Ofa Fotu rips apart the James Brown anthem It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World while she wears a stifling costume that clearly alludes to a golliwog doll. Elena Wangurra battles the confines of the Australian flag and triumphantly emerges as a superhero in the vivid colours of the Aboriginal flag. The beat box skills of Hope One pound through the speakers while Crystal Stacey spins hoola hoops with the dexterity that most women multi task. Domestic violence is portrayed in a way that is gut wrenchingly shocking. Crystal Stacey performance was my personal highlight as she escaped violent assault by using aerial silks. Her performance was exquisite and horrifying and incredibly poignant. Literally hanging by a thread this was a truly visceral evocation of desperation, determination and resilience. We do this for the Women who cannot speak. We are taught that silence will save us. But we will make noise.

The Speaker of this Hive asks Will you stay the same or rock the boat? The Hot Brown Honey mantra throughout this amazing show is DECOLONISE AND MOISTURISE or as Faalafi  says We want to decolonize the World , one stage at a time. The audience are on their feet dancing. The atmosphere is electric. The Party Manifesto is clear and this is one party you won’t want to miss.

HOME until Saturday 23rd Dec

We Are Ian

In Bed With My Brother


Ian is real, so real it turns out he is sat in the audience tonight. For the show he remains a voice pulsating as a bare lightbulb, while he reminisces  about the Manchester rave scene of the Eighties. Three young women crowd around the bulb listening to his Mancunion words of wisdom like he is a Messiah and they are his disciples of dance. Ian says, “Its 2017, we got fuck all. Let’s have a party. Party like it’s 1989.”

The show is a blend of thumping music, smoke machines and frenzied dancing to club classics like Hallelujah – The Happy Mondays.  There is projection screen with dance instructions, lyrics and footage of political speeches and events from the last 30 years. The performers do lots of lip syncing and are incredibly facially expressive yet barely speak. The gurning and munching and spitting of so many biscuits is bizarrely completely engaging. 

This is a mainly young audience who like IBWMB were not even born when Ian was raving, getting wankered and feeling the love on brown biscuits. Quick learners they follow Ian’s journey and it’s a fun trip to take with neon instructions for Hot Potato/Cold Spaghetti. Fun til the politics kick in and images of Thatcher and May appear in black, white and grey to the sound of Dominator by Human Resource. They are interspersed with footage of the old Hulme being demolished and Anti-Austerity marches etc. This is a timely history lesson about the unifying power of music and dance and its impact on civil unrest.

Dora, Nora and Kat (IBWMB) repulse and beguile in equal measure but by the end of the show I might just be a little in love with all three, biscuits crumbs included. Their capacity to physically engage with the audience is impressive as by the end of the performance they generate a love in the space that their mate Ian would approve off. They even manage to do it without illegal brown biscuits!!
We Are Ian is a masterclass in clubbing and a political call to wake up and make change happen. The end of the performance is pure exuberance and the scenes on stage may be my best ever memory of being in a performance.

Until October 14.

Cotton Panic!

Upper Campfield Market

Created by Jane Horrocks Nick Vivian and Wrangler

The old Victorian market space works perfectly as a space for a gig or for an immersive theatre piece. Giant screens either side of the stage project ephemeral images interspersed with close ups of actress and activist Glenda Jackson and other storytellers. On stage is the tiny and feisty Jane Horrocks fizzing with passion and energy. Behind her is a translucent screen projecting  more images and seemingly super-imposed behind that is the band Wrangler  and their analogue synthesizers.

A mix of folk music and clog dancing blend into tracks such as Billie Holidays “Strange Fruit” and Grace Jones “Slave to the Rhythm” with synth music and story telling of the poverty and political struggle weave together to celebrate our working class heritage in the North West.

Walking through the space feels exciting and quite special. The sense of urgency and energy is intoxicating and moving sporadically from the back of the space I soon find myself front of stage. Watching Horrocks’s character descend into wretched poverty and dependency on the kindness of others is a sharp reminder of the problems inherent in misinformed aid assistance. How often do we make assumptions about the needs of others? When we buy a homeless stranger a sandwich do we check first if they are vegetarian or gluten-intolerant or do we simply expect their gratitude? If we give money for aid do we want to meet a specific need or one which we feel is appropriate? 

This is the story of the cotton industry in Lancashire from riches to rags in the industrial carnage that arose from the American Civil War (1861-1865). It is a timely reminder of how any growing economy is intensely vulnerable to over dependency on a single commodity. The lack of cotton arriving in the 1870s crippled Lancashire and created mass unemployment and poverty. It would be good to think we have learned valuable lessons from our social and economic history yet sadly we continue to waste valuable resources and make poor electoral decisions such as Brexit.

Emerging from this performance into the evening sunshine on Deansgate many of the crowd dispersed to nearby bars and restaurants. A lovely way to end a sociable evening. Perhaps the sobering thought being in a coffee or wine shortage how quickly would we be inconvenienced or potentially economically ruined?

Lancashire Cotton Failure

Manchester austerity and homelessness 

Ethics and Aid
Potential impact on Manchester of Brexit

10,000 Gestures

Image Tristram Kenton


Choreography Boris Charmatz

This is a stunning sensory experience. The cavernous disused space is all shadows and shade. The floor glistens like a still pool waiting for the dancers to plunge in or gracefully thread water. The music by Mozart (Requiem in D minor K.626) is breathtakingly beautiful apart from the occasional puncuations of screams, howls and frantic number counting.

As the dancers flood the space in varying degrees of undress there is a sharp sense of Movement, Movement, Everywhere and not a drop to drink in. 10,000 gestures is ambitious and gloriously absurd in its celebration of the impermancy of movement. There is simply too much to process. Even counting the ebb and flow of the 23 dancers felt impossible at times.

The audience are audibly shocked and discombobulated as the dancers clamber over aisles, seats and audience like semi naked marauding ants then later scatter like ephemeral butterflies. 

There may have been 10,000 claps at the end. It was the only standing ovation I’ve seen at M1F17. 

My tribute to Charmatz- 10,000 Gestures in 60 words. One for each minute of the running time.


Until 15 July