Lucy McCormick specializes in historical re-enactments, she tells us, and she is here to play all the women of history, as a means of finding her hero. All this – within about one hour, and with enough time for a snack break in the middle. What ensues is a joy ride in parody, politics and passionate silliness.
Somewhat predictably, the women featured in the show are the English history books regulars – Eve, Boudicca, Anne Boleyn, Florence Nightingale, the Suffragettes – that’s it. And the brevity of the list is part of McCormick’s point – whoever can still take such grossly unbalanced history books seriously? But Post-Popular has a subplot concerning heroism and food, and a punchline finale that this is all leading towards.
It’s worth remembering briefly McCormick’s previous show Triple Threat from 2016. This was an absolute game changer on a number of fronts – alternative entertainment, comedy, musical, live art, gig theatre, neo-burlesque and nativity play would never be the same again! A DIY story of the birth of Jesus Christ, Triple Threat was told through the medium of pop music and supermarket groceries. Its showstopping moments came from McCormick’s boundary-busting attitude to body politics and included naked crowd-surfing and a performative use of vagina. The latter choice is not without its precedents – Carolee Schneemann’s performance art piece Interior Scroll (1975) and Ursula Martinez’s cabaret number Hanky Panky (2004) had been there before, and, undoubtedly, McCormick is well aware of this lineage. Both Triple Threat and Post-Popular were directed by Martinez, and by now the vagina trick can be considered a regular part of McCormick’s repoertoire.
As the title suggests, the new show carries elements of the ‘difficult second album’ syndrome. Structurally, Post-Popular could also be seen as a kind of a re-enactment of Triple Threat itself – the backing dancers, the crowd surfing, the jokes, the supermarket goods, the song and dance routines, the vagina trick are all back in again, with some slight variations. Content-wise, what makes Post-Popular most eminently enjoyable on its own terms, however, is McCormick’s virtuosity as a singer, dancer and comedian. She has the whole audience in the palm of her hand throughout, so much so that you might find yourself tricked into laughing at morally dubious things. This does not necessarily refer to the explicitly parodic and totally hilarious beheading of Anne Boleyn, but to the moments of horror that McCormick relishes leading you towards when the boundaries between the real and the fictional or the sublime and the ridiculous get erased suddenly and quite deliberately in order to create an insight. In this respect, McCormick’s work reminds us of its deeply political nature too.
The answer is simple: if you have missed Triple Threat, do see Post-Popular and you’ll get the idea of McCormick’s uniquely world-changing approach. If you did see the earlier show, then just see Post-Popular for the sheer fun of it. In any case, McCormick is one to watch for every reason imaginable.
Lucy McCormick: Post-Popular
3 December -22 February
Written by Lucy McCormick, directed by Ursula Martinez.
Performed by Lucy McCormick, Samir Kennedy, Rhys Hollis.
This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.