“If you don’t know me,” Lucy McCormick murmurs into a microphone, mouth curling into a droll smirk, “I deal mainly in historical re-enactments.”
What can you expect from a Lucy McCormick show? Nothing. Jesus Christ. You can’t go in expecting anything, you fool. She won’t just whip the rug out from under your feet, she’ll wrap it around your neck and yank you close and lick your face. Returning to Edinburgh following 2016’s cult hit Triple Threat, her stormingly bonkers staging of the New Testament (complete with ass-less chaps, whipped cream and frankfurters, and copious amounts of fingering), Post Popular is (by comparison) a more subdued lecture/therapy session/cabaret/cobbled-together Frankenstein’s monster of a show, tunnelling “through the annals of time” (10/10 work from the PR team there) to depict some of the most famous women in history.
McCormick is an astonishingly accomplished performer – something which can be easily overlooked when, yaknow, she’s rimming one of her supporting players (the excellently deadpan, entirely underused Ted Rogers and Samir Kennedy) or squirting a bottle of ketchup onto her neck in a re-enactment of Anne Boleyn’s beheading. She’s an artist who uses her precise, immense technical capabilities to increasingly warped and delightful ends, who revels in hideousness, in cracks and stains and dark, dirty corners. She’s an immensely generous performer, in that way. She’s all in, every goddamn time. Her voice curls around every protracted vowel she sings, wringing it out, relishing it absolutely. Her body twists and writhes and thrusts, her face gurning and snarling. She blasts straight through any remotely titillating connotations into the flat-out obscene, and when Post Popular smashes into its heights, it explodes into a total fucking riot.
But there’s an undercurrent of genuine queasiness running through its seams that Triple Threat didn’t have – not the top-of-the-rollercoaster terror of ‘Oh God what’s she going to do next??’, but something more insidious, a slight seasickness. She has an uncanny ability to draw out each laugh to its painful, stuttering end – and then just keep going. Sometimes that collapses in on itself – sometimes when your laugh fades, there’s nothing at its root – but sometimes, the laugh peels back to reveal something actually, genuinely horrible. At one point, McCormick claws her way through the audience, screaming “What’s wrong with me?” again and again, so many times that her voice cracks and breaks, and it’s hysterically funny at first, before it sorta isn’t anymore, and then it just becomes – well, a woman in pain, with people laughing at her. Post Popular is a more deliberately uneven beast than Triple Threat – it feels like trying to power through a comedown, like the moment after the party ends, when the lights come up and you pause, blinking dumbly, lips cracking and eyes dry. McCormick makes fleeting but consistent references to her deceased father (“I think he’d be really proud of me”), before swiftly undercutting them (“because I’ve been sucking loads of dick”), and yet, and yet, the heaviness lingers. When she pauses the show for an interval and chugs a can of Dr. Pepper, her shoulders slump slightly. Throughout Post Popular, her skin becomes caked with sweat, and dirt, and condiments, and the floor gets scattered with debris. There’s a cost to all this riotousness, even if McCormick tends to wear it lightly.
Post Popular is on at Pleasance Courtyard at 8pm, as part of the 2019 Edinburgh Fringe. More info and tickets here.