Open Dyke Night at the Factory Theatre
As our world hurtles ever faster towards the sun Salem Barrett-Brown has channelled their SJW, climate crisis fury into a killer underground showcase - it’s Open Dyke Night! Watch queers and creeps stand up and striptease their way through identity, depression, the government and the sky itself in this hour of defiant comedy.
Salem has over 5 years experience as an actor, improviser, stand-up comic and performance artist. They founded and host Birdcage Queer Comedy Night and perform regularly at What She Said, The Laugh Tub and backyard activist fundraisers. Salem is one third of absurd sketch group Dumpster Divas, who took their sold-out Sydney Fringe premier Art Vs. Garbage to Mardi Gras Festival this year. Their previous solo shows Haha. The Void. and Comediex did not bring them prosperous harvests, but third time’s the charm.
James spoke with Salem about how their comedy has developed over the past few years and what we can expect from this wild show. Read the full interview below:
After three years in the game, how have you evolved and developed your act to match and meet your growing audience?
Performing regularly this year and outside queer or specifically inclusive spaces forced me tore-structure my sets to suit audiences who didn’t necessarily know all the niche queer things I was referencing. At the moment I’m trying to initiate audiences into transgender and feminist concepts in a way that is relatable for everyone. Relatability seems like the core of audience’s connection to stand up, which can be real difficult when your experience is outside the norm. Analogies help.
Open Dyke Night features poetry, dance, sketch, strip tease, performance art and alt stand up. Do you have previous experience in each of these various skills? Did you learn any new skills specifically for this show?
I developed sketch and stand up skills in my university comedy scene, and I’ve learnt about performance art from my fellow Dumpster Divas Daniella Paradiso and Rory Nolan though this will be the first time I try performance art solo. (Ahhh) I’ve studied different kinds of dance since I was little, from jazz to cheerleading to pole and now chair & lap dancing. I picked up classes last year after a few years’ hiatus as part of my recovery from mental illness and fell in love again! I sunk a wildly disproportionate amount of time preparing tricks, skills and choreography for the dance portion of the show, and specifically learnt how to strip tease for it. Hopefully the 5 minute bit is worth it. As for poetry I think 90% of transgender people I know wrote moody poetry in highschool, it’s in my blood.
As one of the only non-binary comedy acts in Sydney, were you able to draw inspiration from any other artists, or are you forging your own path?
Ali Wong is a massive inspiration. The way she handles her experience with discrimination in comedy is disarming and really funny, she subverts expectation in playing a flawed, aggressive persona to make her points. I am a bit arrogant on stage because taking a lower status position to skewer the shitty things I have to deal with isn’t as interesting to me, and I think that’s partly due to her influence. Cassie Workman and Sydney locals Rosie Piper and Margot Beavon-Collins are all incredible trans comedians that also do unexpected things with heavy topics. I kinda hope no non-binary comedians get big in the next few years though because I for sure wanna be the first, like Ellen.
You regularly create and perform as part of the queer collective Dumpster Divas. How are you finding your experience as a solo performer this time round?
Solo performance satisfies my (large) ego. I’m really excited about showcasing different kinds of comedy and have been consistently having late night epiphanies during solo writing sessions, which is honestly really positive wholesome time spent with myself. But working with a group is better, there’s more energy and someone to tell you if your idea is crap. And working with Daniella and Rory is a treasure because I get to watch them be incredibly talented, it’s a little more humbling.
Why should people see Open Dyke Night and what do you hope people take away from the show?
It’s a mix of different kinds of comedy rather than straight stand up, I’ll talk about perspectives you’ll likely have never heard before, it’s weird and honest and kinda hot and absurd and still relatable. I think (hope) I’m doing something unique with both what I’m saying and how I’m saying it. I want people to get a sense of the clusterfuck that is being transgender and queer, not just in what we endure but in how odd and funny the world feels when you are marked as outside it. I want people to see that transgender people aren’t tragic figures or the punchline of awful jokes, but that we tell jokes, that our experiences are funny and they parallel your experiences too. If for nothing else it’s a fun show and I take my top off.
Favourite production you have ever seen?
It was Blood Wedding about 7 years ago at the Wharf Theatre. It was so dramatic and bloody and poetic.
RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS
You’re getting on a plan tomorrow and you can go anywhere in the world, where do you go?
Dream show to create?
I want to do an interactive netball game theatre show inspired by the wrestling performance style. It could be awful!
Plays, musicals or operas?
A hobby you have beyond the theatre?
Reading books, usually about mentally unwell queer women
What’s next for you after this show?
I’m writing a play with Rory of Dumpster Divas. It’s set in 2140 and centred on the death of a banker. It’s dystopian, we’re in drag, it’s political, it’s a parody, it’s weird, it’s funny, it makes no sense and heaps of sense - I’m so excited. We’re aiming to perform it by the end of the year in an intimate venue in Sydney.
Open Dyke Night opens at the Factory Theatre on September 18, 2019. You can get your tickets here.