“It’s like an invisible baseball bat to the head,” co-creator Candy Bowers said, describing One the Bear as a bunch of fun but also as a political piece of theatre that is unapologetically feminist. The show mixes in a variety of deep set issues and challenging ideas to further explore their effect in today’s society.
As Candy so accurately puts it herself, “if you’re kind of done with the male, pale and stale variety of theatre then you’ll like One the Bear.” The show was created by sisters, Candy and Kim Busty Beatz Bowers, after they were approached by Campbell town arts centre. They wanted to create something for young
people, something that was a gift but also a challenge.
“I wanted to make something that would still them and help them to have critical conversations about this kind of space they are in now, celebrity and mass media and wild kind of representations of people and success,” Candy said.
She wanted to create discussion and to start questioning the ways that women have been and are still being represented and objectified through time. “Also giving some of those young people a bit of context around colonisation and why in particular black women’s bodies are treated the way that they are in hip hop or in media and culture.”
“Every great fairy-tale is cautionary, so my thing was who’s the big bad wolf in the world right now, well mass media and celebrity actually are.” “I want to give you an invisible baseball bat so when Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner approaches, you knock them out of the ball park, like no you will not make me feel shit about my body,” Candy said.
Wanting kids to see something alternate to their television screens and movies, Candy calls the show, a ‘site of magic her story.’ “I wrote this for the next generation of queens. And frankly theatre is so dominated by white men that we don’t get to see a lot of feminist theatre or work in a radical feminist gaze, so this is so fresh for a lot of kids,” Candy said.
“The show is critiquing the music industry as well, looking at all of those structures that are quite unworkable. With music it’s like there can only be one in that top position, if you look more into those structural oppressions, you can see how colonial structure has informed the music industry and all the tropes that go along with that.” Kim said.
“We’re on the deepest level giving voice to some of those untold stories, reminding young people through the allegory of bears, getting to play with this fairy-tale space and to be able to get the old school, storytelling across,” Candy said.
The idea of revolving the show around bears came as an imaginative leap for the sisters after talking to a close friend, who said that the best place to find a bear in Canada was at a garbage tip, because that’s where they live. After doing some research Candy found that the bears were getting diabetes because they were eating people’s junk.
“Their homelands have been decimated and now they are scavengers and so I thought what if they can’t growl anymore, if they can’t crawl and their claws are cut because these hunters have made them docile. This is a very close experience of what first nations people have experienced. The political and the allegorical and the fairy-tale all came together,” Candy said.
The sister’s theatre company, Black Honey Company was formally established in 2011, their by-line ‘fearless sticky performance’ was their version of using the word political without explicitly using the word itself.
“If you say political theatre, people think they are going to get smashed over the head, in a bad way, but we do it in a really good way. People are afraid of the idea of politics in theatre, particularly in Australia which is funny cause everything is political,” Candy said.
The mantra that Candy and Kim use as the overarching theme for the show is the quote from notable writer and feminist Audre Lorde, “if I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies and eaten alive.”
According to Candy, in the theatre world, white men are running the game and this is an obvious power issue. “The only way we can shake down the structure of racism and sexism is by going in there and telling the people who run the structure that we are taking some bricks out, and that we might even have to blow up a wall.”