Lucy McCormick returns to the Soho Theatre on December 11th with her hit show ‘Triple Threat’ – in which she will reenact the new testament via a nu-wave holy trinity of dance, power ballads and absurdist art, casting herself in all of the main roles. We caught up with her last week to find out a little more about her work, the show and what to expect.
(Interview © Amie Taylor 2017)
AT: To start with, how do you refer to yourself – is it as a performance artist or theatre maker? Your work seems to cross a lot of boundaries.
LM: I’ve been thinking about this recently, and on Twitter I decided to put entertainer, which sounds really old school, but it was pleasing to me that entertainer doesn’t put you in one camp of the other. But a performer I suppose, and a maker.
AT: And what was your journey in to becoming a maker and making the work that you do now?
LM: I trained very traditionally, I did an acting degree and before that I was really in to musical theatre. After graduating I started experimenting with making my own work and started a theatre company called Get in The Back of The Van, in 2008; so I was devising work rather than solely being in plays. Then I started to make bits of work under my own name in Night Club environments – 5 or 10 minute pieces to show to rowdy, drunk people, which was a different process, but one that I found really interesting and a great creative challenge. And that was how my show Triple Threat started, I started making a short version of the work, then a couple of years later decided to make it in to an hour long show.
AT: I saw a version of Triple Threat at Jackson’s Lane last year as part of AndWhat Fest – was that very different to what’s on at the Soho Theatre this December?
LM: The ridiculous premise of Triple Threat is that I’m going to reenact the New Testament, taking on all of the main roles. Originally I did the Nativity at Christmastime, and then I started to look through the New Testament for different stories that might work well. So I’m still trying to find new ones, and I think at Jackson’s Lane I did the Nativity and the resurrection. So that was a version of the work.
AT: And what inspired you to make these short scenes in to a full show, and where did the idea come from to use the Bible as a starting point for these pieces?
LM: I think something that I liked about looking at the bible stories were these really epic themes of passion and death, guilt, jealousy, love and I’m interested in these stories of human existence and how we feel about being born and having to die. Then putting those stories in to a night club setting and telling them in 10 minutes, I loved the absurdity in that and the attempt to be epic, but in a very short amount of time, and sometimes in these really dingy places. But I suppose I felt that what I was doing had to scope to be an hour. And to be honest, it wasn’t easy, when I first decided to do it, I wasn’t sure it was working – the acts previously having been so short didn’t seem to work so well as an hour long piece. Then one night I had this weird waking up moment in my sleep, where I thought, we could do it in three acts, using a really theatrical convention, and I think doing it in those three acts has managed to help keep the feeling of it being quite brief, and also quite cabaret.
AT: It must be really different performing 5 minute pieces in clubs and an hour long show in a theatre, do you have a preference and how do they differ?
LM: I don’t have a preference, but I do think they’re quite different. When you’re performing in a club, or even in a cabaret environment, people are there ostensibly to chat and to drink and you walk on stage and have to be like ‘Hey – let me grab your attention for ten minutes…’ and it feels very temporary and the audience have the control. Whereas in a theatre, they’re there waiting for you, sometimes with crossed arms, and they are there specifically to watch you. So both are interesting challenges. And I’d never stop doing night club stuff now, I feel like it’s a really great way of making work, but there is more scope in a theatre to have more narrative, or leave the audience with more to think about.
AT: My experience of seeing your work was that it’s inviting, and easy to interact and engage with. Have you found that there’s been a lot of audience response, and what has that looked like?
LM: I have, and I’ve been really overwhelmed by that. Some people are massively moved by it, and really want to talk to me about the show, or about their experiences. Or people have found it hugely entertaining and really funny. Some people have seen it who are religious and the fact that it’s based on this story has really chimed with them – I’ve got some Christian fans. Then some people have seen the religion as by the by, and it’s about all this other stuff – either pop culture or feminism or queer experience. All of the performers identify as queer, it’s a really fun, rowdy messy night out, and is also a piece that leaves you thinking, especially around queer identity and around our experiences as queer people.
AT: Were you bought up religious yourself?
LM: No, I wasn’t. The premise of the idea is what we know of the story without even having tried – we know that of course there were three kings and they went to the cradle, so it’s more about a collective knowledge of a story, and that collective knowledge might be accurate or it might not be. Although the Christian people I know that have come have enjoyed it because it is very accurate, I did a certain amount of research. I’m telling the story by pop culture and using my body, there is quite a lot of nudity. But it should always make sense, it’s always brought in by the story.
AT: What’s next for you after this run at the Soho Theatre?
The things I have lined up at the moment are night clubs and cabaret, some bits of comedy and stuff. I’m enjoying playing around with lots of ideas and don’t want to jump straight in to anything, not thinking ‘right, I must get back to Edinburgh with another hour’, it’s not really the way I work. Mostly I’m just enjoying creating little bits. I took part in a night called the Unreal Variety at The Hackney Empire, which is Jonny Woo’s night, and he asked if I could do something new, so I said yes, but I hadn’t properly thought about that space and got there and thought, ‘wow, there’s going to be about 2000 people here’, but it went well, and that piece might be something I’d like to further develop it was about celebration and self love.
AT: Thank you so much for speaking with LGBTQ Arts today Lucy!
You can catch Triple Threat at The Soho Theatre from the 11th December for 6 nights only. Book now.