Jonny Woo in conversation with…Lucy McCormick

Lucy McCormick
Photos by Simon Phipps

Jonny Woo talks to the disruptive comedy star about feminism and creativity

It was performance art luminary Ursula Martinez who first made me aware of Lucy McCormick.  It was for a work in progress at Soho Theatre, (one of London’s leading supporters of the best queer performance) which I couldn’t make, but I was lucky enough to catch this, her first big show at the Edinburgh Fringe, Triple Threat and I was blown away.

Visceral, punk, emotional, challenging and I don’t know, transcendent. It was her own re-enactment of the New Testament, with two dancers and with Lucy taking a central role, playing all the main characters.

She really is a very interesting performer, a powerhouse of dry confrontational wit, provocation and sex. When I started planning my ‘Un-Royal Variety’ at The Hackney Empire, I KNEW I wanted her presence on the stage and I wanted to help commission her to make some new work, excited that I have no idea what to expect. I caught up with Lucy after our photoshoot to find out more about her work, who she is, feminism and the gay scene.

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Where are you from Lucy and where did you train?

I’m from Derbyshire, in the countryside. I trained as an actor, very traditionally at drama school. When I was teenager I was super into musical theatre.

In this age of identity and gender politics, how you identify?

I don’t really know. I just know I’m Lucy!  I’m queer, and my sexuality is fluid. I’m trying to think a lot about my identity at the moment, particularly in reference to how far it influences and is visible in my work. It’s funny, being queer is partly about fluidity and acceptance – but I think we also love titles and sometimes we’re the first to box each other in. 

How would you describe your work?

A ‘Trash-step-dub-punk-nu-wave-post-popular-non-binary-socially-engaged-experiencial-experience.’

How do you approach making work?

I listen to shit loads of music, and get lost in my thoughts. I get random images of things I want to do on stage and write them down. I think really specifically about the venue and context of what we’re doing, so I can both go in knowing how to play the audience, but also mess around with expectations. I really like to make work that is in turns really slick, and a total mess.

Was Triple Threat your first show? I’m not familiar with your other work – what came before?

I was performing around nightclubs, queer clubs and in the performance art community for a couple of years in the run up to Triple Threat. It was my first ‘full’ show that came out of those experiences. Places like Duckie, Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, Steakhouse, Dalston Superstore (I was dancing on the bar), The Black Cap…I performed downstairs at The Glory once. That kind of thing. Before that, I had a name for myself via a performance company I co-founded in 2008, ‘GETINTHEBACKOFTHEVAN’.

Do you think feminist theatre is given enough platforms and if not, what can be done to remedy that?

Capitalism is not feminist so of course it’s a constant fight. On a mainstream level, it seems like maybe a bit more is being done, but what scares me most is when it’s all a bit box ticky and not actually thought through or invested in, but just seen as a way to secure certain pots of funding. Feminism has been subsumed into capitalism. It eats everything. For me, it’s really important that feminism is not just about women – it’s about everyone. It’s opposing systems of power and control that says “this is how you must be, this is what you must do”, as a way of oppressing people. And that is about everyone, not just women.

How do you think women are treated on the gay scene? Does there need to be a change? Do you even engage with the gay scene?

As in the gay male scene? I have a substantial gay male following, so for me it’s family really. If a place feels super traditional politically, I just like to go in and ruffle a few feathers and play with the audience. Sometimes I’ll arrive at a heavily male dominated space and people will go straight up to my (male) dancers and welcome them, kind of assuming it’s their show. And sometimes after, they’ll be cooing over them and I’ll think ‘Hey! I just bloody bust a gut on that stage’, but also it’s fine, they are super hot and super talented! I think sometimes the use of female nudity has maybe been more of an issue, in spaces where I’ve seen male nudity performed with apparently no problem. Like a vagina is more naughty or wrong than a penis.

What have you got lined up for The Un-Royal Variety?

I’m thinking about the idea of Royalty. Who gets it? Who gets to speak and what do they say? Then I’m considering queer royalty, pop royalty, spectacle, having fun and using the glorious space.

Where do you see performance taking you?

I wanna be in movies baby please.

Watch this space. It will probably happen!

Lucy McCormick will be presenting new work as part of Jonny Woo’s Un-Royal Variety on 3rd and 4th November at The Hackney Empire.

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