GT Stage

Penny Arcade

One faghag's non-stop erotic cabaret

Penny Arcade launches into her show - and we're paraphrasing here - with something along the lines of "There's none of that Burlesque shit in here tonight, this is all EROTICA!"
She was referring to the gogo boys and girls who vogued it up for the first half hour of the performance, as the audience trickled in and a bunch of scantily clad dancers worked the room and catwalk. You may even recognise a few local scenesters sans wigs, as we could just make out the male bodied versions of A Man To Pet and Russella strutting their stuff (and dangling perilously from stripper poles).

Penny Arcade grabs the mic and spends the next two and a half hours morphing into persona-preacher-performance-artiste characters (a barbie doll, and brothel phone operator, her naked self) as she leads us down two paths: her own life and observations, and how they relate to you.

We acknowledge the painful hit at lazy journalism (queer academics and separatist lesbian wymen didn't get off lightly either) as Penny savaged many targets in her all singing, all dancing verbal tirade. But even at her rantiest, her humour carries it through - that and the fact that most of her well chosen targets deserve lampooning.

During one part of the show Penny talks eloquently and movingly about how AIDS has affected her life, and of all the gay men in her life she's lost. It's an inspiring speech that only a stone hearted cynic could not be moved by. In the same vein, her rallying calls to loving yourself sound cheesy committed to the written word, but are utterly convincing live and you would have to be a miserable, mean-spirited joy vacuum not to want to get up and dance onstage when she invites the audience to do so.

This clip gives you some idea, but imagine it in the intimate confines of a tent. Those dancers get reeeal close...

Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore! from Penny Arcade on Vimeo.

If you have ever questioned your gay identity, ever looked around and wondered where your place in this fucked up world is, then it's probably here - at the foot of a 60-something faghag surrounded by erotic dancers, in a makeshift stripper joint in Dalston.


Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore! runs until 22 July, at the Arcola Tent Theatre.

Words: Bob Henderson
Photo: Theodoulos Polyviou

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