One The Bear wants more for her tribe.
Set in a garbage tip, 'One The Bear' by Black Honey Company tells of a young female bear who mourns the life she and her friend Ursula lead on the streets. They spit rhymes about living under Human Hunter Law and dream of the days when they used to be free.
What happens when One is given the opportunity to speak for her community?
Candy Bowers (Candy B) tells scenestr about the show.
What is ‘One The Bear' all about?
'One The Bear' is a fearless and challenging work about identity, cultural appropriation, colonisation and representation. I use allegory and fairy tale tropes to deliver a piece deeply connected to my herstory. One (Candy Bowers) and Ursula (Nancy Denis) are two best-bear friends raising a ruckus and spitting rhymes about the dank life they lead. In a stunning turn of events, One is thrust into the wild world of celebrity where everything she believes in is commodified and exploited. This brave new piece of explosive theatre examines the toxicity of losing your roots and finding the pathway home.
You say it’s a ‘fairy tale for the hip hop generation’. Where did the idea to create something like this actually come from?
The idea was seeded in Campbelltown Western Sydney, which is where I grew up. I worked with teenagers from high schools in the area and also lots of young people living hard in the juvenile justice system. I've been running workshops in hip hop, poetry, drama and personal development with young people from the margins for my entire career. The show is a gift but also a challenge. I wrote it to seed a critical conversation and to interrupt their addiction to celebrity/media.
You’re the writer/you came up with the concept. Where did your passion to create originate from?
My passion is born of my heritage/first nation bloodlines (I am Xhosa from South Africa) and from my experiences running workshops with diverse young people across the Australia and South Africa. I am passionate about raising consciousness and shifting the current paradigms of oppression at play here and globally. I grew up watching all-white casts on Australian stages and screens; the erasure of women of colour in particular has spurred me on. I have continued to make work (even when it felt hopeless) in order to give young people of colour that life-affirming shock of recognition when one sees oneself reflected.
The Black Honey Company at La Boite's 2017 programme launch earlier in the year - Image © Jesse Chaffey
It’s essentially a story interwoven with music and lyrics. Why do you think storytelling via music is so effective?
For Black Honey Company (that's my sister Busty Beatz and I) music has always been present. We're South African and if you ever have the joy of witnessing SA plays (especially devised work) you'll understand how embedded music is for us. We've been awarded a few Innovative Theatre awards and I think that's because we've integrated hip hop/spoken word with music theatre. It's always been effective, it's how theatre always was.
You’re presenting this with a team including Busty Beatz, Jason Wing and Sarah Seahorse. What do they each bring to ‘One The Bear’?
Busty is one of the greatest composers and sound designers of hip hop theatre in the country and arguably the world (watch out Mr Miranda). Busty's music is the heart of the show. Jason Wing is this incredible political street and visual artist and his activism is matched with his aesthetic. I wanted a graffiti artist who could also conceive of the spacial needs of the stage, his work as an installation/public artist was excellent ground work for the 'One The Bear' set design. Sarah Seahorse is this mad and wondrous WOW award-winning costume artiste. I worked with her at 'Circus Oz' and knew she was the best person to create afro-punk bears! All three are political activists whose practice includes working with young people.
What are you hoping to communicate when you present this show?
I hope the show will open up critical conversations about celebrity, cultural appropriation and how we can support young people (especially young girls) to define themselves for themselves. My favourite quote is from Audre Lorde: "If I didn't define myself for myself, I'd be crunched into other people’s fantasies and eaten alive." Essentially One is eaten alive and I hope watching her epic journey will influence how we consume culture and individuals today.
Can you relate this show to anything else that you know already exists?
Stylistically 'Hamilton' or 'In the Heights' by Lin-Manuel Miranda, 'Barber Shop' by Inua Ellams UK or 'Into the Hoods' by Zoo Nation UK are the closest. There was a slate of work at Edinburgh Fringe this year that grew from radical black feminism and women from the African Diaspora. All global! But Black Honey Company is global, perhaps that's a good way to position it – we bring international-style work to the Brisbane stage.
What kinds of shows/performances are you hoping to create in the future? Are there any other issues you’d like to tackle through the medium of performing?
Black Honey Company has a work adapted from Shakespeare’s 'Twelfth Night' which is an exploration of love under crisis, called 'Twelve: A Soul Musical From The Streets'. There are a few big ideas, a work about mental health and displacement. More about race and love and freedom. All the good stuff.
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