Interview: Penny Arcade

(Originally published on www.lgbtqarts.com July 2016)

Last year ‘Longing Lasts Longer’ by Penny Arcade was a huge hit at The Soho Theatre, this year it travels to Edinburgh in collaboration with The Soho Theatre and London Artists Projects. It’s hilarious, lively and gloriously queer, whilst candidly discussing the problematic issue of gentrification. This week Female Arts’ Amie Taylor ran a quick fire Q and A with Penny to find out about her latest piece.

AT: What was the inspiration behind Longing Lasts Longer and how did the idea develop?

PA: I was pretty much sick of being told I was nostalgic everytime I complained of what Gentrification is doing to the world. Particularly my world, the downtown bohemian, art world. All our venues were disappearing, gay bars, cafes, bookstores, nightclubs everything that made life fun and meaningful. As soon as I started to make the piece gentrification went into hyper gentrification and overdrive in the UK and everywhere else. People never care about gentrification till it effects an area they love.

AT: And what’s the journey with the show been like so far?

PA: It has been a wonderous experience because the show speaks to and for people 14 to 90: everyone who loves freedom, individuality, authenticity and rock’n’roll.

Touring to Ireland where my hit show Bitch!Dyke!Faghag!Whore! created a huge mainstream presence for Queerdom in Ireland in 1994. It was a seminal push in bringing Gay Marriage to Ireland and audiences there remembered me for it, touring Australia which I haven’t done since 1994 was similar in that hundreds of people who saw Bitch!Dyke!Faghag!Whore! in 1994 and 1995 came out to see me and acknowledge my role in their thinking so it was pretty extraordinary year!!!

AT: What’s your process for creating a solo show? Did you work alone, or invite others in to the room? What was the timescale of the creation process?

PA: I have collaborated with Steve Zehentner for 24 years! I come with the ideas and the music…we work improvisationally in front of live audiences..believe me, no one else does this…it is nerve wracking but I need and love to walk that tight rope and we keep doing shows like this and the shows eventually get written and memorised. The Public is my other collaborator…they get to see the work being made- no hype , no bullshit and they LOVE this. Longing Lasts Longer was developed over a year period 13 performances and now has toured for a year when we hit Edinburgh again –FLYING!

AT: What do you hope the piece will inspire in audiences, and what do you hope they will take away from watching?

I like to give my audience a context where they can think and laugh for themselves. I have lived the life since before Stonewall I can provide first hand witnessing to life on this planet for 66 years and no 25 year old can out rock me!

I want to support your individuality and authenticity with this show and as we support the truth of our lives as ridiculous and brilliant and stupid and FUNNY as it is we support each others freedom individuality and authenticity. Believe it is not fun being a free person in a world of slaves and drones…More free, fierce, truth seeking individuality out there is great for all of us!

AT: I saw Longing Lasts Longer when it was on at The Soho Theatre last year, and though you speak of the gentrification taking over in NYC, it was definitely something Soho audiences could easily identify with as we have seen queer venue after queer venue close in the area. Do you think there is anything to be done to stop or slow gentrification? What do you think are the most productive / useful courses of action we can take?

PA: No Gentrification will not end. We are colonised. What we van do and what this show is for is to support OUR INDIVIDUALITY so we know how not to give up our freedom our authenticity.

We are living in critical times. I provide the Food of Heroes! To support your individuality and your individuality is what FIGHTS the mediocrity of gentrification.

AT: Describe the piece in 6 words…

PA: Radical, queer, rock’n’roll comedy insurrection!

Follow Penny Arcade on Twitter @PennyArcadeNYC
Book to see her show: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/penny-arcade-longing-lasts-longer

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