Theatre review: Lucy McCormick: Post Popular, Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh

Lucy McCormick: Post Popular, Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33)
Lucy McCormick: Post Popular, Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33)
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"I do historical reenactments,” Lucy McCormick offers at the top of her new show.

Lucy McCormick: Post Popular, Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh * * * * *

This is true, sort of, though audiences who witnessed the gloriously obscene account of the life of Christ given in McCormick’s 2016 show, Triple Threat, might feel it doesn’t quite cover the bases.

Post Popular takes broadly the same approach as that show: McCormick is front and centre, voraciously dynamic and mildly delusional, walking us through her process as she brings the past to life, backed by two sexy-deadpan dancer-stooges (Samir Kennedy and Rhys Hollis). This time round, the subject is “all the famous women in history”. Who, McCormick wonders, “is going to inspire me so I can inspire you?”

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So unfolds a ridiculous romp through several millennia of female empowerment, from the Garden of Eden to the Suffragettes, realised through formal approaches ranging from comic monologues and preposterous choreography to bin-bag couture and splattered condiments. It’s part Karen Finley, part National Theatre of Brent. McCormick’s persona is the heart of the show, unabashedly self-aggrandising and charismatically domineering yet flecked with insecurity and self-loathing.

A superb clown, she also dances and sings terrifically; there’s witty use of music throughout, including Chaka Khan, Cat Stevens and Mariah Carey. But the dynamic between McCormick and the audience is also crucial, manoeuvring through off-the-cuff rapport and parodic trust games to more ambitious use of the crowd as part of the historical scenery, as regimented troops or a baying mob.

The show’s uses of history are often deceptively savvy and shrewd, with on-point observations gliding below the chaotic surface.

Indeed, the delight of Post Popular, which is directed by Ursula Martinez, is its breathless yet utterly assured pivoting between wildly varying registers. Orifice-based slapstick sits alongside stiletto-sharp wit; boredom, slowness and insecurity have their place next to bravura entertainment and edge-of-the-seat emotion. You might not be surprised by the show’s failure to account for every significant woman in the history of the world, but you might be by its balancing act of funny and vulgar, vulnerable and sharp-eyed, savage and sweet.

Until 25 August

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