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The outrageous performance artist brings her witty look at women through history to London
This review is from the 2019 Edinburgh fringe; 'Post Popular' is on at Soho Theatre in December 2019 and February 2020
Lucy McCormick’s first solo show ‘Triple Threat’ was one of the clear highlights of the 2016 Fringe, a hilarious and genuinely shocking attack on the very notion of good taste. It cast McCormick as a monstrously egotistical version of herself, who had crafted a sexually explicit recreation of the New Testament that grossly glorified her own overweening ego.
It was brilliant, and it hangs very large over its follow up, ‘Post Popular’. When McCormick off-handedly (and amusingly) declares that she does ‘historical reenactments’ and that this one will be about ‘women from history’, there is a certain sense of deja vu. And in fact, the basic formula of the shows – both directed by Ursula Martinez – is almost identical. It’s a vignette-based structure in which McCormick flits between various women – Eve, Boudica, Florence Nightingale, Anne Boleyn – whose stories she tells in scenes of extremely dubious taste (rimming occurs within the first ten minutes), rooted in the aesthetics of contemporary R&B music videos.
But something is off here: McCormick seems hesitant, fretful, even nervous. In the frequent snack breaks she keeps making petty, self-aggrandising comments about the size of the room she’s playing to; but the subtext is that she seems to feel trapped by her previous hit, unsure about how to follow it up. The dance routines are as confident as ever, but when she’s Anne Boleyn, waiting to have her head chopped off, demanding we heckle her demeaningly, the monstrous egotist of yore seems long gone. Even her, er, traditional use of nudity has been tamped down: for most of the show she wears a crudely scribbled on bodystocking.
Is it a comment on how women must apologise for their place in history? I mean… maybe..? Is it reflective of McCormick’s own struggles to follow up ‘Triple Threat’? I would guess it is. Has she essentially made ‘Triple Threat Part 2’? I think that probably depends on whether you see satirical ego-driven nudity-heavy R&B-influenced historical recreation performance art as a one-off or as an actual calling. Certainly they feel like different shows, but perhaps never enough to make ‘Post Popular’ feel like more than a very good companion oiece.
Still, it’s easy to be blasé about these things: if you go into ‘Post Popular’ without having seen ‘Triple Threat’, somebody will probably need to scrape your jaw off the ground after. If you did see it (and didn’t storm out) it’s a delight to return to McCormick’s world: she is, undoubedly, a total one-off.