It’s rare to see a truly avant garde performer – one so effortlessly boundary-busting that you can hardly believe your eyes and ears – who is also at home in the mainstream. It’s also rare when the performer is hilarious. But Lucy McCormick is one such artist. Her show Triple Threat (the theatrical term, I’m reliably informed, for a performance that involves singing, dancing and acting) has to be seen to be believed. In fact, I’m not quite sure I believe it even now.
The show started out on the queer circuit, where McCormick was known as part of the performance company Get in the Back of the Van, which describes itself as “playing with glory, endurance, artifice and the banal”. But despite its radical content, Triple Threat made its transition to the general audience without causing controversy. It was a huge hit at last year’s Edinburgh festival fringe, and is now coming to the end of a successful run at the Soho Theatre, in London. “I’ll shout So!” McCormick tells the audience at the start. “And you shout Ho!” All good, transgressive fun.
Triple Threat is McCormick’s retelling of the New Testament – which she feels, with some justification, has until now been lacking in “strong roles for women”. McCormick plays pretty much all the roles, Christ with particular relish. She is ably assisted by two scantily clad lovelies, who spend a lot of their time looking humiliated and resentful: which is, of course, extremely amusing, because that’s how people cast in such roles really ought to look, although these two only get away with it because they’re men.
Triple Threat has a certain amount in common with Jerry Springer: The Opera, the musical written by Richard Thomas and Stewart Lee. The show was widely condemned for its irreverence towards Christianity and its general profanity. One suspects Triple Threat hasn’t attracted similar disapprobation simply because it’s playing on small stages, with small budgets, and none of the people who would be horrified have realised it exists. Which is sad, because they’re exactly the sort of people who have the most to learn from seeing it.
McCormick is a ludicrously charismatic presence, singing, dancing and acting with prodigious power and skill. It’s her material as well – the satire, the gags, the intelligence, the insight, the complex, perfect pitch and tone. McCormick is absurdly talented.
She tackles gender roles by re-enacting the nativity from Christ’s point of view, slithering in a tight bodysuit through a cervical passage formed by her two-man Girl Squad’s arms – breasts and pubis casually coming in and out of view as if they were like any other parts of her body – which, of course, they clearly are, in the context McCormick has created.
Let’s just say that the surprises keep coming. The listings magazine Time Out described the show as “joyously depraved”. The three kings scene has the trio and some of the audience caked (due to budget constraints) in Gold Blend, frankfurters and meringue; and an extended snogging scene between Jesus and Judas somehow conspires to leave McCormick’s face slathered disgustingly with Nutella left over from the temptation of Christ in the desert.
Among the many power ballads lustily belted out with untampered lyrics fitting the Christ story perfectly, the enlistment of the Bryan Adams hit (Everything I Do) I Do It for You to communicate the crucifixion scene is particularly pleasing.
The doubting Thomas scene is the transgressive peak of the show, and features the investigation of all of the orifices of Jesus for proof that he is risen, not just the nail holes in his hands. By that point, however, the audience is merely delighted to discover that it can still be shocked. A bit. Although full “what the hell just happened?” astonishment does set in within minutes of stumbling dazed out of the theatre…