Penny Arcade at The Contact

New Yorks undisputed Queen of the underground, Penny Arcade gave us a rare live performance at The Contact Theatre

Penny Arcade - Longing Lasts Longer

As I walk into the theatre, Penny is stood at the foot of the stalls having a pre-show chat with the audience. Mug of tea in hand she comments on the on her work and the reaction that it can provoke.

Music is playing in the background as she explains that sometimes people think she is addressing them directly, commentating or even criticising their life or choices; this she strongly denies stating that she is ‘discussing the mass and not the individual’.

The music changes, a prompt, to remind her that she’s on now. Tea is put down and Penny rushes up the stairs to start her one-woman show, this is clearly going to be an interesting night.

Hailing from mid-America she escapes to New York, the Big Apple, in the mid ‘60s just when some of the best known icons of the period are emerging onto the scene. She talks about clubs where she was friends with the likes of Holly Woodlawn, Andy Worhol, ‘Jim’ Iggy Pop and Patti Smith and some the things that happened.

Penny talks about the experiences of being in and around the Gay scene, some of her friends such as Quentin Crisp and the terrible personal loses caused by the AID’s explosion.

But Penny has not really come to talk about her life.

She is here to discuss how her life has shaped her view that people, the mass, has become a willing participant in the loss of its own individuality (I think...). The Machine, the Man, the controlling marketing that so dominates today. Interconnected, constant reinforcement of why we should worry about what Kane West or those Kardashian’s are doing, she asks ‘who cares?’

The fact is she is right, ‘the mass’ has been drawn into persistent cycle of being told what to watch, who to follow and to concern themselves with not offending anyone.

I think that Penny is really lamenting the loss of the individual’s ability to think and make choices about what they want to do without the over powering ‘mass’ concerns. She highlights, probably American Universities, where students are given trigger warnings in books, they are reading, to say ‘you may not agree here’, or even are just allowed to read the parts that they feel comfortable with...

Is she asking, ‘where is that spirit that made people demand their freedoms, to rebel,  to think, read and be? ‘.

Often accused of being nostalgic or harking back to a time when things where better. This she strongly refutes dismissing it with ‘I am not nostalgic for the 1970’s a decade when it was all nylon or the 1980’s when excess was the new black’ or any another decade that she was alive in.

However, Penny also says that her generation had all the best bands and the best concerts, this is clearly wrong. Interestingly David Hepworth, who in his new book ‘1971:Never a Dull Moment’ argues his believe that music ended in 1971. This kind of idea has already been muted by Kiss bassist Gene Simmonds who claims ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ is dead, insisting that not one iconic act has emerged since 1988.

Clearly, this is not a new idea and has been explored in some detail. I like David’s approach, it is funny and engaging and Gene’s thoughts on ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’, I have to say, do seem to pan-out.

You could write a handsome manuscript about this Penny Arcade show; its delivery is carefully choreographed with ideas, concepts and thoroughly thought provoking commentary all set to an ever changing musical background created to emphasis her message.

Certainly Penny Arcade has made a great return to Manchester, after a 9 year hiatus, and if you get a chance to see her show then go because you are in for a exciting and provoking evening.

All combined with some entertaining on stage dance moves and bouncy breasts...

Visit Penny's website by clicking here...

Reviewed by on .

Rating: 5

story published on  Wed, 25 May 2016