With her bright red hair and black-lined eyes, Penny Arcade looks like some sort of cartoon superhero – and she has the commanding stage presence you’d expect of one too. Her set is underscored with an excellent soundtrack, mixed live by her long-term collaborator Steve Zehentner, which gives the whole thing a wonderful energy.
Penny Arcade remains strong and consistent, even in the face of a pretty apathetic audience.
Her material is divisive at best, offensive and boring at worst. She speaks of gentrification, the rise of mediocrity and the evil cupcake, which at first feels like strange and compelling territory but soon turns into a bleak and rather miserable picture of society. Her bright stage presence can only do so much: it soon becomes clear her set is just complaining.
She makes controversial assertions and often fails to follow them through. For example, the show is called Longing Lasts Longer, so she describes her persistent longing (stronger than nostalgia, because that’s too passive a word) for the way things used to be: rebellious, wild and fierce, whereas now we’re constantly walking on eggshells. But then she follows this up by criticising every single decade she’s ever lived in, saying she has always lived in the present and always wants to be the person she is right now. That’s great and all... but then what is she longing for?
No doubt she’d say I missed the point, as a young person. And boy, does she make anybody under the age of thirty feel unwelcome in her audience. She is utterly patronising, saying we’re too fragile because we’ve never been slapped, or so pathetic we want to be friends with our parents. Apparently we run a ‘tyranny of fragility’.
Nevertheless, towards the end of the set, her material became slightly more uplifting – though she tells us in one breath that happiness is not other people and we don’t need relationships with anyone other than ourselves; and in the next that the best moments in life happen with other people. It’s a confused message, though it’s full of heart. Penny Arcade remains strong and consistent, even in the face of a pretty apathetic audience. So I’ll say one thing for her: she’s damn sure of herself.