Soho Theatre, London – until 22 February 2020
I feel for the stage manager that has to coordinate the clean-up after this show. Soil, leaves, ketchup, chocolate wrappers, cherry bakewell crumbs, fake flowers and bodily fluids are everywhere. Lucy McCormick is certainly the queen of filth. She’s also ruler of the absurd, grotesque and biting social commentary. Though her previous show Triple Threat is more sophisticated than this one, comedy and vulgarity join forces as McCormick chronicles history’s strong women in the hopes of finding herself a hero.
Within the first few minutes, we see a dance number, charades, political references, and rimming. It’s a fairly solid encapsulation of the performance-maker’s work. The historical reenactments that she also promises in the introduction are then systematically delivered as she embodies – in her trademark trashy/crude, hilarious style – a small selection of historical women in short scenes. Because of British history being written by the white patriarchy, there aren’t many women for McCormick to choose from and their stories don’t end well. Whilst she doesn’t explicitly comment on that, she finds that none of these heroes suit her. Instead, she seeks inspiration elsewhere in a gleefully penetrative climax to the show, after which you will never view Cadbury Heroes quite the same way again.
She’s joined on stage by Samir Kennedy and Rhys Hollis. The two men serve as backing dancers and props. Clad most of the time in just their pants, they are there to be used and objectified by McCormick and the audience in a feminist fuck-you to pop culture gender tropes. She revels in her disgustingness whilst they have to prettily pose and pout. Their calm silence contrasts her chaotic energy, which is further juxtaposed by her own moments of frank and casual direct address to the audience. It’s a nice choice that adds tonal variation and allows her humour to emerge in a range of ways.
McCormick is an instinctive and intelligent performer and theatremaker that lays waste to conventions of beauty, historical truth and what is and isn’t acceptable to stage. This piece leans more towards absurd comedy, but it hasn’t lost any of the unique markers that make her work so socially and poltically vital.