BarbieQ gets ready for the crazy schedule of Fringe World

As Fringe World’s opening weekend fills the streets of Perth, bringing the city to life for four weeks of cabaret, burlesque, theatre, comedy and spectacle – OUTinPerth caught up with one of the festival’s most in demand performers, drag star BarbieQ.

When we spoke, Barbie was heading home from her final technical rehearsal for her collaborative show with local circus group Kinetica. Last year they wowed audiences with The Madonna Circus, a show that brought together drag, circus skills, dance and a love of Madonna. It’s a show that OUTinPerth gave 5 stars.

This year they present Madonna: The Diva, The Icon, The Circus at the State Theatre Centre but it’s just one of five shows BarbieQ is starring in during the four week festival.

Asked if we’ll be able to see her running from one theatre to the next, the drag performer reports that thankfully many of them are at the same venues, and luckily spaced out enough to recover a little after each performance, otherwise she’d might have had to pray to Cynthia Nixon – the patron saint of clever theatrical scheduling.

At the start of her career The Sex and the City actress memorably appeared in the Broadway productions of David Rabe’s Hurlyburly and Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing at the same thing, running between the two theatres to make all her entrances and exists on stage.    

Barbie laughs, and notes that she’s actually discovered that trying to move quickly through the crowded streets of Northbridge during Fringe World is nearly impossible.

“I’ve done that before. Last year, we had Sinsuality, which was in Yagan Square and then we had to run to get to the next show at The Pleasure Garden. In reality its just down the road.

“But when you’ve just come off from doing a one-hour show and you’re trying to make it to the next one, it’s impossible because then you’ve got to run through your own audience. Who want to have photos, and then you feel horrible, saying no. So then you stop and have photos and then you’re battling to make it on time.”

While the drag performers love of Madonna is well-known this year she’s added a show they pays homage to one of her most idolised heroes, Dolly Parton. BarbieQ said she decided to give a Dolly themed show a go after she saw a great response during her online COVID-19 lockdown performances.

“I just decided that I was going to do it. I did my Dolly Parton at home through COVID. I did it on a Monday night and I thought, ‘Well, I might have 20 people watching for five minutes, and those are probably going to be my family and my friends.

“And it just was really strange, because I did it and I had 150 people watching on my live stream. I was like, ‘Wow, that’s kind of neat.'”

Soon friends were asking if Dolly Parton was going to be added to her Fringe itinerary, so the plan for a new show was hatched, A Dolly Parton Spectacular.

With tickets sales nearly sold out, BarbieQ says she’s been blown away by how many people want to come out and share her love of the iconic country star. The show will cover Dolly’s classic country tunes, but also her forays into other styles of music, including last year’s collaboration with dance outfit Galantis.

BarbieQ says that while she loves the regular audiences she performs to each week in Perth’s LGBTIQ+ venues, Fringe World is a time when a lot of people get to see drag performances for the first time, and it’s often their first exposure to LGBTIQ+ culture.

“I love about our regular audiences, obviously, because without them, we wouldn’t be working. But I think the one great thing about fringe audiences is sometimes people only come out see drag just that one time for the whole year.”

The performer notes there is a big difference between the hyped up Fringe World audiences and the die-hard drag audiences who watch every local show, and have seen every episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race; describing the front row of the audience of Drag Factory as “five people in a line who often look like their puppy has just died”.

Aside from her homages to Madonna and Dolly Parton, BarbieQ will also be appearing in Drag Diva Spectacular: Love and PrideSinsuality 6: On the Beachand Filthy.

Head to BarbieQ’s website to see all her shows.

Graeme Watson

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