Penny Arcade in her ‘Longing Lasts Longer’
Soho Theatre 2-21 November 7.30pm
When I was invited along to review this piece, I read what I could find on the website and the Producer’s invite but I couldn’t actually ascertain what exactly I was trundling off to Soho Theatre to watch. This made me a little anxious. It’s a bit like walking into a business meeting with no idea what the meeting is about. I now realise that I couldn’t easily identify the genre of the piece I was going to see as it is so unbelievably, inspiringly and unapologetically unique.
5 minutes in and I had no choice but to stop asking myself ‘what is this woman?’ I think that was kind of the point. Penny refuses to allow or enable you to define her, in life and on stage. She needs no excuses – she IS her excuse. And boy does she own that groove!
Mingling around in the theatre with her guests before the performance kicked off she was easily recognisable as the busty red head from her poster. From the moment she bounded on stage she exploded out of that shell. If the flash point and subsequent unfoldings of ‘The Big Bang’ were a person…Penny would be that person.
She proudly announces on stage at one point that she is 65 years old and that “only a moron would want to go back to their 20’s”. She continued that she has spent a long time squandering her youth and she intends to carry on squandering it for a lot longer. I think this verbalised what it was about Penny that I was trying to put my finger on as I watched her bounce and gyrate around. I was feeling and engaging with every version of Penny that has ever and probably will ever exist. I could almost see it. It just radiated off her, constantly morphing in unmeasured bursts. It was beautiful because here is a woman who has been refined by not defined by her life and the impacts of the various decades she has danced her way through. She allowed me to view her life and indeed my own as constantly improving shades of your own unique colour – if you allow it. And that’s her point. First you have to realise. You have to be awakened – then you have to choose. She shares a very similar opinion to me on happiness. You don’t just wake up one morning and effortlessly become happy – like some God given right. You have to choose to be happy then you have to work at being happy and staying happy – for yourself.
There were so many fantastic quotes that as a Journalist writing a review, I should have and and am normally very good and noting down in my mind – verbatim. But with Penny, I was unable to because each time she imparted a gem of a line that was her own brand of genius – she promptly blew it out of the water with her next blinding light bulb moment.
Here is a woman who has also clearly existed and thrived on the queer scene for longer than I have even been born and this did yield a great line…
“You can’t call yourself fierce and demand a safe and comfortable space in which to be creative – in the same sentence”
And indeed it would appear that that is the world she has come from and that is the world we were all treated to at Soho Theatre last night. At no point was it safe – she was on a roll, but she has a great heart and generous soul and so our time spent with her was as much about being embraced and educated and encouraged as it was about being kicked up the ass.
Go and see ‘Longing Lasts Longer’ – you have to see Penny in action to understand. But I can promise you this – you will laugh a lot, you will leave the theatre a little bit wiser and probably with a new view on few things.