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Review: Open Dyke Night at The Factory Theatre

By Laura Heuston

Salem Barrett-Brown identifies as many things. The list they rattle off midway through the show was far too fast and detailed for me to record with any hope of accuracy, but I’m almost certain that trans-masculine, non-binary, polyamorous, bisexual and (maybe) anarchist were in there somewhere. As such, I feel the need to let those who are dogmatically conservative know- if the title didn’t give it away, you won’t like this show. To everyone else, you’re gonna have a spectacular time.

Barrett-Brown utilises numerous forms of comedy, under the guise of different performers at the Open (Dyke) Mic, demonstrating an exceptional versatility when it comes to their performance abilities. Most of the content is identity politics focused- with sexism, leftist politics, polyamory, gender, and the trans experience (including transphobia)- being explored through various mediums. Stand up, slam poetry, dance, sketch and physical comedy are all included, producing a rollercoaster of an experience for the audience and a mammoth task for Barrett-Brown. They finish the hour with little breath remaining, the ultimate reason for which I won’t spoil for potential viewers, but trust me- the last dance is truly athletically impressive, and done in heels too high for me to adequately explain here. They’re tall enough to freak me out, but that doesn’t do them justice at all. 

The downside of the density of content is that Barrett-Brown loses their way at times, and does not breeze past the mistake as fluently as other comics. There were some notably awkward pauses and the script was clearly on stage and at times in hand. They also have a tendency to speak at an incredibly high speed, and whether this was due to nerves, mannerisms, or the time restriction of Fringe is hard to say. The pace was not a huge issue in the show, as everything was easy to understand, however they may be able to slow it down a touch and memorize a bit more confidently with slightly less content. That being said I cannot suggest an obvious weak spot to remove from the stand-up, as it was all very strong, so the answer may be to shorten some of the dances or recordings. 

Nevertheless, the majority of the performance is wildly entertaining, and allows the audience a humorous insight into the challenges faced by a number of minorities consistently. Barrett-Brown illustrates the ridiculousness of transphobia and the enforcement of the gender binary through hard-hitting but hilarious commentary, and deliberately does not shy away from controversy. One recording in particular is delightfully virulent in it’s calling out of sex pests in comedy, with any similarity to real persons living or dead being coincidental, I’m sure. The through line of the invading deer works wonderfully as a narrative arc for the host and their various “disappearances”, and the depiction of the multitude of ways in which engagement with a trashcan can represent masculinity serves as a delightful allegory for both the trans-masculine and femme experience. If you’re not completely up to date with current identity politics it is ok, Barrett-Brown offers some explanation, however it is worth bearing in mind that most people in the audience are and this is who they are playing too. 

If open engagement with sex makes you squeamish, stay home. If you don’t want to acknowledge that the gender binary is idiotic, don’t come. However, if you want uncompromisingly honest art that will potentially instill a fear if murderous deer in you, and will certainly have you laughing well after the show is finished, this is the show for you. 

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All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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