Thursday, 22 September 2016

Penny Arcade at Soho Theatre

Penny Arcade says 'protect your authenticity' and I take that to heart. Penny has brought her Edinburgh Fringe show, 'Longing Lasts Longer', to London but has cut it down to only 60 minutes since that seems to be the rather odd policy of the Soho Theatre. To make up for that she came out 10 minutes early to start chatting and introducing the show as people were seated. I breathed a sigh of relief when she said that people didn't need to worry about sitting near the front since she didn't pick on people - she said she doesn't need to since she already has material and the show was written before we came in. Such a sensible lady! I saw Penny four years ago when she did her 'Bitch! Dyke!' show at the Arcola Tent in Dalston so it was nice to get re-acquainted with her.

I've said 'show' a few times already but is it really a show? or is it performance? is it dictat? is it social commentary? is it stand-up? It's probably all of these things and more, written by a clever woman with original thoughts in her head that she wants to share and poke fun where you least expect it.

She started off with damning the gentrification of New York and, by extension, London. That struck a chord since I'd been to the site of the Malaysian restaurant Melati on Great Windmill Street for dinner earlier in the evening to find it had closed and was replaced by some trendy-looking restaurant/bar. The originality is being sucked out of cities to homogenise them, the weirdness and danger is being tamed by money and that's certainly happened to Soho over the last decade with music venues and sex shops being replaced by coffee bars, offices and barbers.

One of the attractions of Penny's thoughts is that she's lived through interesting times from the late 60s onwards and been part of the underground for much of that time so she has a different take on social change. She has anecdotes for every circumstance and she is funny when she wants and a killer when needed. She hones in on PR and advertising and slays it by explaining it's background and what it aims to achieve. She gets young people in her sights because of the impacts of society on them that mean they live in a different world from older people, starting off life with enormous debts for student loans rather than just having fun. She kills the idea that she's nostalgic for the past by saying she was raped in the 60s, the 70s was a trashy decade, the 80s saw lots of friends die of AIDS - what's there to be nostalgic about?

Above all, it's important to be yourself, be the you that your secret heart knows you are. That's the difference between crowds and packs - people in crowds want to blend in and be the same, people in packs want to shout out their own wild ideas and develop them. Penny is definitely a leader of the pack.

At the age of 66 (as she remained us several times) there's a lot of life left in her fighting to get out and I'm pleased she shared some of herself with us tonight. I will certainly do all I can to protect my own authenticity. Thank you for the ride Penny!

PS: Penny no longer has the red hair in the pictures, it's more of a platinum blonde with purple highlights. Tasteful as ever.  

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