'We could have done this show with 200 women! Trust me; there was no shortage of talent."
On a scorching hot Brisbane morning, Lisa Fa'alafi, from Polytoxic Dance Theatre, and Busty Beatz, the musical director for boylesque Briefs, are discussing their next take-on-the-world show. If we thought Briefs, the all-male cabaret, was levelling the gender playing field, it was only a taste of things to come.
With Hot Brown Honey, Fa'alafi and Beatz are promising "lashings of sass" and a "hot pinch of empowerment" which will have audiences - especially those who like their entertainment with a rich helping of social commentary - clapping their hands until they bleed.
It stars six Australian-based women of global first nations' heritage - Maori, Samoan, Tongan, Indigenous Australian, South African and Indonesian - who blend comedy, dance, hip-hop, beatbox and burlesque to take on colonialism, sexism, gender stereotypes and racism.
And could there be a better day for a show like this to burst into Auckland than February 14, 2017? Doubtful, given that this Valentine's Day marks the 50th anniversary of Aretha Franklin's recording of Respect - the song which became an anthem for the feminist movement.
"Given the success of the Women's March and the rise of Donald Trump, with his views on women, people think it's time to stand up and make some noise," says Fa'alafi. "A lot of people are in that frame of mind now so, although we started making this a little while ago, it's the perfect time to punch through and use art to make some sort of difference - and the arts do have the capacity to start the discussions, make change."
Beatz says they'd been working on the fringes and encountered plenty of multi-talented women struggling to move to the mainstream because roles for them simply don't exist.
"Lisa and I got together after working across the arts for a while and seeing that it was very clear there was no space for artists like us - women of colour - and we thought, 'you know, it's time to make our own space'."
But they didn't just want to showcase their respective talents; social commentary was always part of the mix. Hot Brown Honey garnered five-star reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where it also won a Total Theatre Award for innovation, experimentation and playing with form. That award alone virtually guarantees the success of future UK tours and saw the show touring venues including the Sydney Opera House.
What: Pride Festival - Hot Brown Honey
Where and when: ASB Theatre Stage, Aotea Centre; February 14-18
OTHER PRIDE THEATRE
Pardon Me Alan Turing: On December 24, 2013, computer pioneer and codebreaker Alan Turing was given a posthumous royal pardon. On May 25, 1895, Oscar Wilde was convicted for the same crime: gross indecency. But where is his pardon? And where is the pardon for the other 75,000 men convicted under the same law? Te Pou Theatre, February 21-25
Loud & Queer: A no-holds-barred performance poetry/theatre project exploring the complex realities of queer and trans identities in present day Auckland. Basement Theatre, February 14-17.
Femslick: Arts collective Fafswag and artist Akashi Fisiinaua present a series of vignettes set to the rhythmic pulse of a Vogue ball. Basement Theatre, February 14-17
Impostar: Who does he think he is? A trip down memory lane telling the heartfelt story of a young boy growing up fabulous on a farm in the Wairarapa. Vault at Q Theatre, February 11-18.
Legacy Project: Stories to celebrate, to provoke and to uncover our distinct perspectives on modern queer experiences. Loft at Q Theatre, February 14-18.
Camping: After its sell-out season in the 2016 International Comedy Festival, Chris Parker and Thomas Sainsbury's cult-hit comedy Camping returns for Pride. Loft at Q Theatre, until Thursday.
Courtney Act: Star of RuPaul's Drag Race and Australian Idol, Courtney Act appears in NZ for the first time with her show, The Girl from Oz! Rangatira at Q Theatre, Friday.