Better known as half of the dynamic female duo Sista She, Candy Bowers is now going solo. Her autobiographical hip hop theatre show Who’s That Chik? unpacks her complex and multi-racial background within a collection of original songs, video clips, stand up, monologue and plenty of bootay dancing. Bowers, in shiny disco-esque threads and mile-high afro, keeps atop of her material, moving from one idea to the next with finesse – rapping about her mixed bloodlines, recreating her woeful NIDA audition and sharing stories of her young life in North Dandenong as the only brown girl in her white school.
The show’s first half hour is over-extended, with too much of Bowers hyping up the show itself. But once it gets past that, there is no shortage of well-developed segments honing in on her two main thematic threads – Bowers’ family tree (so mixed race that even her parents can’t figure it out) and her dream of more multi-cultural representation in the mainstream arts industry. (She’s doing her bit – performing hip hop in the Arts Centre – an act she takes great liberty in milking – comparing her show to MTC’s God of Carnage in the next theatre). It’s occasionally preachy, but more often it’s good-humoured, hilarious and downright fun.
There’s plenty of depth to the material too, since Bowers continually plays with dichotomies and contradictions of mixed-race identity in a range of self-reflexive and engaging ways. She contrasts an idealized African homeland with the realities of an Australian childhood, satirizes the way Western culture exoticizes the African warrior with her own television commercial for Brown Girl in a Cup coffee, recreates a Lionel Ritchie film clip and plays her own mother reflecting on her daughter’s career trajectory. Other highlights include Candy B’s Family History interactive rap and her track about being Blasian – the ethnicity she creates to try to categorize herself – part Asian, Black African and Caucasian.
Throughout it all, the excellent video material by Fatima Mawas and the live DJing from DJ Busty Beatz (aka Bowers’ sister Kim Bowers) are both crucial to the show’s content and integrate with Bowers’ genre of hip hop theatre.
Describing herself as a social innovator, activist, writer and hip hop artist, among other things, Bowers has been building on her artistic and theatrical strengths for several years and this show is testament to her developing new and complex directions post-Sista She. With her life, art and culture all intertwined and her career in full swing, it’s not going to take long before the answer to Who’s That Chik? will be on everybody’s lips.
FULL TILT at the Arts Centre presents
Who’s That Chik?
Written and performed by Candy Bowers
Part of the 2009 Melbourne Fringe Festival
Venue: the Arts Centre, Fairfax Studio
Dates: 30 September – 4 October
Preview: 29 Sept @ 8pm
Tickets: $28/23. Preview tickets $14
Booking: theartscentre.com.au*, 1300 182 183*or the Arts Centre Box Office. * Transaction fee applies