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Fringe review: Penny Arcade

Adelaide Fringe

As the audience enters the theatre for Penny Arcade’s Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore!, pole dancers in skimpy fishnet costumes gyrate and twerk to a loud version of “Come Together” while a large screen provides live close-up footage of the action. ★★★ ½

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The dancers are mostly local and very good, although in this satirical performance it is not quite clear whether we are meant to enjoy their dancing, be critical or liberated.

New York-based Penny Arcade is Susana Ventura, a writer, actor and performance artist who has been creating avant-garde, provocative theatre for 50 years and originally performed Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore! in 1992, bringing it to Australia two years later. After introducing the dancers and the show, she delivers a series of monologues as different characters, with the dancers returning to entertain the audience – and, occasionally, rub shoulders with them – as she prepares backstage.

The show features monologues about a brothel receptionist on the phone to clients or prospective clients, a prostitute who highlights the hypocrisy of conservatives who legislate against prostitution but also use their services, and a young girl who learns about sexuality through playing with her Barbie dolls. There are also film clips, including one in which Ron Vawter performs a rapid-fire Lenny Bruce monologue on the state’s treatment of homosexuals.

Penny Arcade has led a full and colourful life during which she has used theatre and performance to promote civil liberties and tackle issues such as homophobia, censorship and racism. Her commentary can be controversial as she has a go at almost everyone (including committees of homosexuals who behave like censors when they decide that terms such as “gay,” “fag” and “queer” are unacceptable), but she also accepts everyone (except oppressive conservatives).

She promotes the importance of love and loving, and is at her best when passionately berating successive US governments for their lack of concern for those with HIV and AIDS.

Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore! – promoted as part-nightclub, part-theatre, and part-political provocation – has loads of content and interest in a format which is essentially a one-woman show with sexy dancers.

Penny Arcade’s Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore! will be performed at the Scott Theatre, Adelaide University, as part of the RCC Fringe program until February 23. See more Adelaide Fringe reviews and stories here.

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