Towards the end of ramshackle pop spectacular Life: LIVE!, Lucy McCormick perches at the side of the Great Hall and swings her legs. “It’s a shame we’re not doing this two weeks from now,” she purrs. “I could be singing in your laps.”
McCormick has never had a problem with boundaries — perverse, grotesque, and ludicrously charismatic, the performance artist/singer/actress’s work feels like the equivalent of a loose acquaintance climbing into bed with you and giving you a sloppy kiss on the cheek. In Life: LIVE!, her onstage persona, Lucy Muck, has made the decision to “move away from fringe-y stuff and more into world-domination-household-name-general-iconnery.” In other words, she has decided to release a debut album, and we are here (read: being held hostage) for the debut performance.
Morven Mulgrew, the designer and Lucy Muck’s deadpan stage manager/butler/attendant/general emotional support person, has created a design which is — and I truly mean this as a compliment — the most convincing shitty looking set I’ve ever seen. The press release refers to the design as “shonky-spectacular stadium chic,” and accordingly, debris piles up onstage — bin bags, rubber floor mats, pieces of scaffold, all collateral in pursuit of Lucy Muck’s aggressively sought after artistic vision, which crumbles under her feet as she goes. She races across BAC’s enormous Great Hall, panting, damp, and covered in paint, with the energy of a demented ringmaster whose circus tent is falling down.
McCormick’s solo work has always balanced on the knife’s edge of egomania and vulnerability, with Lucy Muck’s occasional panicky asides (“I had a problem thinking I was interesting enough to just be me,” she murmurs) getting blown up into a raging God complex (“But I think I’m over that now.”) She contorts and convulses her body, putting it through the wringer (a pole sequence is particularly virtuosic), seeking out that much-needed applause and then denying it (“Don’t clap if you don’t actually mean it,” she mutters). The songs themselves are rock-solid, and more often than not betray a seam of melancholy which amalgamates into wild, magnified narcissism.“Fill me up, I’m a vessel, baby,” she sings tenderly, before her voice gets pitched down to a nightmarish growl. Lucy Muck refers to herself as a “people-pleaser,” and there is this palpable strain of neediness which is made even more potent by the fact that she’s not able to crawl right up to her audience. She’s a hellish Tinkerbell who wheedles and coerces us into giving her multiple encores: “I’m a dustbin bag with nothing in it,” she moans in one song, and waits expectantly for us to applaud — which of course, we do. Muck/McCormick lives to needle her audience, letting silences hang for just a moment too long, pushing us to see how far we will indulge her. Very far, as it turns out.
Life: LIVE! is on at Battersea Arts Centre until 15th July. More info and tickets here.