Penny Arcade - Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore!

Penny Arcade Adelaide Fringe 2019Adelaide Fringe. Scott Theatre. RCC University of Adelaide. 22 Feb 2019

 

She’s a living legend of the American avant garde, an icon of the emancipated and a performer long beloved of the Adelaide Fringe.

Returning with her most famous production, Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore!, she packed Scott Theatre with fans and adorned it with erotica glam, importing half the cast of Hindley Street's famous strip clubs, describing them as among the world’s best. She seems to think Adelaide would be surprised that talent came from Adelaide. Yawn. Adelaide ever was a crucible of creative talent, and exports it to the world. And, indeed, this crop of erotic dancers is sterling; slinky, writhing skin in perilously slim g-strings. They are strong, sexy, beautiful, lithe, muscular, acrobatic, and personable.  To highly-amped music, they perform extensive pole dancing, twerking and exotic acrobatics as a pre-show feature and are interwoven between the subsequent content of Penny Arcade’s wonderful monologues. 

 

Arcade says burlesque was reborn through her use of such performers. In which case, it certainly suggests that procreation follows sexy since the Fringe and Cabaret festivals have seen something of a population explosion of burlesque.

 

For decades, Penny Arcade a.k.a. Susana Ventura has been the great evangelist of gender tolerance and understanding. Her monologues are erudite, insightful, compassionate, and funny. For one who left school at 13 and lived 16 years in a borstal for her petty crimes, she has turned out as a jewel of humanity. Perhaps “being raised by gays” is the secret. Of course, the now lost world of “fag hags” is a big part of her schtick. Takes one to know one, Ms Arcade. She points out that now that gays have gone mainstream and have grown moustaches, fag hags are obsolete.  Yet, it was these symbiotic women who helped gay men to move up in society.

 

Gay liberation has its down side and Arcade steams with frustration at a culture and a media which brags that “AIDS is dead”. HIV and Hep C are epidemic in many places. It is serious. Let the world know.

 

Penny Arcade finds that she has been repeating herself for decades. Much that which she once predicted has come to pass. Many of society’s ugly shortcomings are unchanged. 

But one element of the gender world may rejoice. It is the era of the lesbian, she declares, to rousing cheers from the back of the auditorium. Maybe it’s not such an easy time to be a woman, though.

 

Penny Arcade’s audiences are more diverse than an LGBTQIA convention. But there is something in her monologues for everyone: alarm calls which resonate like a fire siren; messages which are taken away to ponder; reflections which tickle the funny bone; deft political swipes; snatches of absurdism in among tirades of sensible satire.

 

This critic did not make it to the grand reveal. Frustratingly, the amped-up disco volume of the epic everyone-dance-on-stage finale was beyond aural endurance. One posits that sound people are so deafened that they don’t know they are being deafening. Sorry, Ms Arcade. But, Aldinga Beach and all…

 

Penny Arcade has a thrilling and seemingly timeless repertoire of monologues. These are her gifts of enlightenment. She is the angry wise woman of our times and we salute her.

 

Samela Harris

4 stars

 

When: 22 Feb

Where: Scott Theatre

Bookings: Closed

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