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Review: Penny Arcade in ‘Longing Lasts Longer’

By Matthew Todd

She says she’s not a performance artist, more someone holding a conversation with friends, but legendary Warhol collaborator Penny Arcade gives one hell of a show at the Soho Theatre.

Even though she is in her sixties she packs more passion, pathos and energy into her 70 minutes on stage than most performers a fraction of her age; making an impassioned plea against gentrification. She mourns the New York City she knew: Once a place odd-balls and the disenfranchised could find a community; now, she argues, a city dominated increasingly by bland service industries catering to people searching to get high on mediocrity.

Picture by Jasmine Hirst

The Big Apple, she says, should be renamed the Big Cupcake, arguing the only creative expression New Yorkers – and the rest of us in major western cities – are encouraged to have is how we express ourselves through our choice of cupcake frosting.

Arcade’s show is part performance, part rant, and part sermon bemoaning not just the gentrification of cities but also of our minds, our selves. That wealthy suburbanites have enforced their mortgage obsessed values onto western cities, stripping them of charm, identity and culture is not a new idea. But furthermore, she says, branding and extreme consumerism have seeped into our minds, with people believing to live today is to do as you are bid by marketeers, twitter trends and press releases with botoxed, young people thinking to be an activist all they must do is click on an E petition. This isn’t nostalgia. She doesn’t hark back to a golden age. As she celebrates her age, something we are told we should be ashamed of, she lists off all the reasons why previous decades from the 60s onwards were not the utopia they are often presented as. Today she says is the time for revolt, for the fight back.

There may be ideas here that you disagree with but being offended, toughening up, is one of the things we need to learn, Arcade asserts as she curses and dances her way round the stage to the pumping music that is integral to her show. Longing Lasts Longer is vital, dangerous, frequently hilarious and a wake up call to a world that knows, as the saying goes, the price of everything but the value of nothing. There is wisdom here that all of us could do with hearing.


Longing Lasts Longer plays until Saturday 21st November, 020 7478 0100

Interview: Performance artist Penny Arcade says ‘pleasure is a radical action’