Writer: Penny Arcade
Reviewer: Emma Flynn
“I make art you can use”, Penny Arcade roars from the aisle at nobody in particular. “If I was a man doing this you would consider me a comedic genius, but because I’m a woman I’m a bleach blonde slab.” There are fifteen minutes prior to Arcade taking to the stage where she delivers an unrestrained, meandering monologue to a still-assembling audience. Urging us to appreciate this time, Arcade says this is the point of the night, before it ever really starts, where we get to see the difference between the art and the artist.
She left home at thirteen, spent a summer homeless in Provincetown and moved to New York at sixteen with a small sum of cash she stole from the sandwich shop in the Sisters of Mercy reform school she had just been released from. Penny Arcade is the face of avant-garde New York performance art, and if you don’t know her, you know her story and the world she comes from before she gets on stage. She is the self-professed result of a lifestyle conceived from the zenith of the hackneyed cocktail of sex, drugs and rock and roll.
Longing Lasts Longer is in many ways an ode to that zenith, a love letter of sorts to a point in time before the commodification of education, and the effect that has on our young people. Arcade eschews the idea she hates younger generations, modern society and is nostalgic for the good old days, she instead emphasises that she longs for authenticity. In each segment of her show, she approaches subjects like gentrification, trigger warnings, student debt and technology with a critical eye. Her anecdotes about the suburbanisation of New York ring just as true in Dublin, where the whitewashing of individuality and community can be seen all over the city.
The backdrop to Penny Arcade’s not quite performance, not quite talk is a soundtrack that is singularly eclectic and emotion driven, often seeming more authentic than the accompanying monologue. It rolls through the decades that Arcade reassures the audience she doesn’t yearn for; the ‘70s had war, the ‘80s had AIDs and the ‘90s were when everyone was an artist without creating any art. She shuns the idea of social theory in favour of personal lived experience and she hasn’t watched Seinfeld or Sex and The City so she is purer than you and I.
At its heart, Longing Lasts Longer is a jolting ballad to New York in its stereotyped artistic prime. It condemns vague capitalist forces and the sprawling effects it leaves in its wake. However, for all the questions it asks, it engages with few and answers fewer again. It sometimes slips into being the rant of a rattled street-preacher, directed at nobody in particular but craving an audience all the same. Penny Arcade emphasised longing as opposed to nostalgia, but longing is simply nostalgia without the acceptance of change occurring.
Runs until 16 September as part of the Tiger Dublin Fringe Festival | Image: Steven Menendez