When the Guardian reviewed Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore! earlier this year and called it “dated”, there was an online backlash. And rightly so.
You don’t take a knife to a gun fight and, while B!D!F!W! is certainly funny in parts, the broadsheet should not have sent a comedy hack to review this show. With its array of comic skits, contemporary commentary, acrobatics and a hoedown of epic proportions, this show straddles the central reservation between theatre and cabaret nebulously labelled “performance art”. The production has travelled the world over the last two decades, having been seen in 25 cities and in three London venues this year alone including the prestigious Old Vic Tunnels.
Alongside the star of the show, sixty-something New Yorker Penny Arcade, B!D!F!W! features a cast of six dancers. They open the show with some fearsomely fine footwork as they grind and gyrate around and between the audience. We especially enjoyed expert pole dancer Josh Taylor who is worth the price of entry alone and Leslie Deere who is not just a pretty face.
Arcade’s dialogue traverses the decades from her teen upbringing by drag queens to a discussion of the recent Connecticut tragedy on her way to a timeless polemic on the nature of human rights and personal freedom. While there is a frank discussion of gay issues, for once we get to hear the girls’ side of the story as Arcade discusses the difficulties of being bisexual and why there has never better time to be a lesbian than now. This woman rails better than Virgin and First Great Western combined, her vitriol aimed not just at those in power but those who acquiesce and accept any status quo which limits basic expressions of thought and love.
This show is a call to arms, legs and anything else that can move, especially towards the end as the audience is invited on stage to join the dancers in hoofing away to Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive. With all the power of a gospel choir, that simple tune somehow unifies the congregation in a bout of genuinely joyful jiving. And when was the last time that happened at a comedy gig?
Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore continues at the Albany, Deptford until 23 December. Tickets are £10-£18. More information can be found on the official site.
Londonist attended at the invite of the producer.