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sunday night with candy b

candy-bI am totally, madly, unbelievably in love with Candy B: a big, bold, beautiful self-declared Bla Bla Bla Bla Bla Blasian (Black-Caucasian-Asian) queen. A couple nights ago I spent an hour and a half in Candy’s company as she rocked stage, audience and screen in shiny pink dance-pants, which clung to her curves almost as cheekily as the way she kept running her mouth off.

Before I get any further with this review though, let me drop the line Candy Bowers insisted any reviewers start with when covering her one woman show Who’s That Chik? , running at the Arts Centre until tonight: Candy Bowers is a black woman. On stage. At the Arts Centre. In her own hip-hop theatre show: Who’s That Chik?

Are there any reviewers in the house?, Miss Bowers hollered, There were some reviewers in the house last night. I mean, why would you come to a preview? It’s called a preview FUCKERS!. Then the fiery hip-hopper instructed us to: Make sure you get that ‘black’ bit right. It would be nice if you could mention that.

Who’s That Chik? is part film, part monologue, part freestyle vox-pop, part dance, part family photo album, part stand-up comedy, part rap and one hundred percent hip-hop Candy. In the space of an hour, accompanied by sound-designer and MC Kim Bowers (aka Busty Beats), and with the assistance of Video Artist Fatima Mawas and Director James Winter, this woman takes you captive on her life journey, complete with beats and breaks, starting in apartheid era South-Africa.

Candy performed the family history lesson section of the show with an academic gown and board over her shimmering emerald green, watermelon pink and bright purple hip-hop dance outfit. The right side of the audience chanted Candy B’s, and the left Family History, in an enthusiastic call-and-answer which formed a chorus to her family-tree rap. (As soon as my grandfather took the ‘G’ off ‘Leong, nobody knew he was Asian. Which is really strange, because to me he kind of looks like an Indonesian man…)

The versatile actress played tag with us through heartbreaking dance-class taunts (Who’s that girl over there? How come she’s so fat? Must be an Abo or something, came the child’s voiceover as Candy danced to Michael Jackson, complete with white gloves, and pasted-on smile). She explored her early life, born to South African migrants in suburban Dandenong (My mother straightened my hair from the time I was five to eighteen. When I was nineteen, I decided to shave my head and see what happened, she raised an eyebrow and pointed at her sizeable afro). Candy held our hands through the heartbreak of her NIDA audition (Ummm, I was just wondering if…maybe…you could put a monologue in the audition book for umm… for us girls that aren’t white. There’s nothing in there for us.), NIDA acceptance (I’m the brown girl! The one chosen brown girl!), and graduation (…and for her graduating performance from NIDA, Candy Bowers will be playing the role of…the maid).

It is difficult to write about growing up the ‘Other’ Black in the suburbs of Australia. I know it. There is a constant denial amongst white picket fenced Australia, and beyond, that racism even exists anymore. To many, to express anger or sadness at the blatant racism encountered by migrants of colour in suburban Australia is somehow seen as tantamount to a lack of gratitude for the ‘privilege’ of living in this country. And that’s just the surface of it. But Bower’s show shoots this notion dead, skewers it through the heart. Who’s That Chik? is profound without being clichéd, angry without being irrational, and confronting without being inaccessible. The spellbinding performer heckles without being a hater (Come on, you, that guy over there, get up here and dance. God, you’d be the guy sitting at the table of white boyfriends at a South African wedding while everyone else is dancing), cries unashamedly (…people are being blocked, people are being blocked. People are being blocked…), ad-libs with honesty and breaks it down until we’re all left standing there, gazing at the smithereens in awe. An experienced performer, and one half of the comedy Hip-Hop duo Sister She, Candy Bowers, has proved with Who’s That Chik that she is an extraordinary writer-performer who can hold her own, and our hearts besides. Oh – and she’s black. And has her own show! Go sister, fucking go.

Book for the remaining night of for Who’s That Chik here. Can you think of anything better to do with your Sunday evening?

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

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Maxine Beneba Clarke is an Australian author and slam poet of Afro- Caribbean descent. Her short fiction collection Foreign Soil won the 2015 ABIA Award for Best Literary Fiction and the 2015 Indie Award for Best Debut Fiction, and was shortlisted for the Stella Prize. Her memoir, The Hate Race, her poetry collection Carrying the World, and her first children’s book, The Patchwork Bike, will be published by Hachette in late 2016.

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