Lucy McCormick’s tackling of the New Testament in last year’s fringe smash Triple Threat is a hard act to follow. Where do you go after you’ve been Jesus? How about taking on every single historical woman of significance – all five of them? And if that’s not enough to pack the audiences in, kick off proceedings with some graphic onstage rimming and offer them a selection of half-time snacks.
For anyone vaguely familiar with McCormick’s unique brand of outrageous work, it will come as no surprise that Post Popular is not a straight historical re-enactment. McCormick (very) loosely delves into the legends of female icons in search of a role model. It’s not long, however, before McCormick tires of facts and starts kicking our chairs like the naughty kid at the back of the bus. This search for an icon to emulate is as much about putting her own ego on a pedestal before blowing it up with dynamite. It makes for a volatile, dangerous-feeling show, full of surprises, not all of them pleasant.
McCormick creates no-boundaries performance art for people who also like musicals and inclusive strip clubs. Post Popular is a full-throttle rollercoaster ride of extremes that still manages to be riotously entertaining. It’s amazing what a few high-octane dance numbers and West End-worthy vocals can do to keep you clapping on through simulated total mental collapse.
McCormick is an incredible all-round performer. She is well supported by the return of stony-faced, body-popping backing dancers Ted Rogers and Samir Kennedy. There is something especially brilliant about watching such talent absolutely purposefully humiliate itself. Kennedy’s turn as the garden of Eden devil-snake (wearing only snakeskin boxers and mucky socks) is a wonderful blend of serious ability and total stupidity. Watching him slither across the floor and over chairs is unlikely to be surpassed in its sheer weirdness.
It would be wrong to think that these sketches are irrelevant nonsense. The ingenious touch of director Ursula Martinez is very evident in the control and structure of every ridiculous instant. It’s the same sorcery Martinez brought to Triple Threat and Wild Bore – meticulously constructed hysterical frenzy. The cringe factor of McCormick’s drama workshop facilitator from hell audience interaction is carefully engineered. It’s an illusion of pandemonium that sees a whole bag of apples smashed in apparent chaotic abandon.
Even in her most surreal moments, McCormick allows grotesque truth and pain to sneak through. A gory sequence of historical events enacted with multiple bottles of ketchup goes that bit too far to be uncomfortable. It’s horrendous and simultaneously funny as a cloying, sickly sweet smell of tomatoes fills the room along with McCormick’s fully committed death screams.