Monday, 8 August 2016

Triple Dramaturgy Threat: Lucy McCormick @ Edfringe 2016

Underbelly, Cowgate (Venue 61) ​
Aug 8-9, 11-14, 16-21, 23-28 8.10pm

Post-popular prodigy Lucy McCormick and her Girl Squad present a trash-step dub-punk morality play for the modern world. Casting herself in every main role, Lucy attempts to reconnect to her moral conscience by re-enacting biblical stories via a nu-wave holy trinity of dance, power ballads and absurdist art. With direction from Ursula Martinez.

What was the inspiration for this performance?
This piece pulls apart and marries diverse interests in feminism, post-feminism, comedy, success, ineptitude and sites of Queer identity. 
The premise offered to the audience at the beginning of the show is that three performers will re-enact the New Testament. I was partly inspired to create this piece by an ongoing interest in the Quaker belief in ‘God’ as one’s own moral conscience - ‘that of the God in everyone’. This piece involves casting myself as the Ultimate Man, as well as various archetypal females, and is a great conduit for my interests and frustrations in gender politics and feminist discourse.
The premise is clearly ridiculous, failed before it has begun, and the piece uses humour as a central currency. The comedy has a twisted, dark, nihilistic tension inspired by an interest in philosophy and semiotics, and informed by various strains of performance work; clowning, theatre of the absurd, performance art and cabaret. 
How did you go about gathering the team for it?
I began by developing the work as a 'series of biblical re-enactments' for nightclubs and subversive cabarets. I knew I wanted to work with two dancers early on. Although my work is now engaged with performance art, I trained traditionally in dance and musical theatre (hence the name of the show Triple Threat) and I wanted to pair the messy, DIY aesthetic of the performance with very virtuosic choreographed song and dance routines. All the performers in this show identify as LGBTQI+ and in some ways putting this work together has been a bit of a research project for me, thinking around being a queer female within the heavily male dominated gay spaces I often perform at. 
Ursula Martinez is my outside eye/director on the piece. I asked her if she would be interested in collaborating because she has a really unique place within the performance world which straddles performance art, cabaret and theatre. She is also absolutely fierce and takes no fools, great qualities for a director I think. We have similar humour and are both interested in pushing the boundaries of audience expectation. She's done a lot of successful cabaret stuff via her work with La Soiree, whereas my solo work has been quite underground so far and I wanted her input on accessibility and how far the work engages with more mainstream audiences. 
How did you become interested in making performance?
I trained traditionally as an actor. It wasn't until I was at drama school that I realised I was really into devising my own work, but I still didn't really know what performance art was then. I kind of found it later via gay clubs and the queer clubbing scene. I began a collaborative performance company GETINTHEBACKOFTHEVAN in 2008 with two other women. We make devised, experimental performance which has toured around the UK and Europe. The company formed out of a mutual interest in physical endurance, spectacle, mess and failure. The work I am doing now is massively inspired by the company although my solo work is quite a different style, more informed by cabaret and stand up than theatre. 
Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
No. I began trying out the 'biblical re-enactments' as short club/cabaret acts and at the beginning of the process I didn't necessarily think they would become a full show. It has really been the testing out of the work in front of a live audience that has been the development, as opposed to long periods of time in a studio as I have done in the past. The work is fairly spontaneous and involves a bit of audience participation and so really thrives off the live experience. Working in collaboration with Ursula was completely new and we've developed a good working relationship; I tend to devise the material alone first and Ursula comes in and gives feedback and helps to shape it. I spend a long time figuring out the dance choreography and the very scripted parts of the show, but other than that I like to work quite quickly and I often change the material every time I do it to keep it fresh. 
What do you hope that the audience will experience?
I don't really like to prescribe what I think the audience should 'feel', but in terms of what happens there will be a lot of dancing, songs, mess, banter with the audience and a finale ending in which Jesus ascends up to heaven via an (attempted) crowd surf. The piece is loud, fierce and volatile but always enthusiastic. I hope the audience will be entertained, as well as invited to think deeply around the themes in the show.
What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
A key strategy for me is humour. I think if you can get the audience to have a good time, and to like you, you can get away with a lot. Interestingly another good strategy for getting the audience on side is skill - once people know I can sing and dance to a good standard they seem happy to also engage with other material which is less 'legitimate'. 
I re-tell stories most people already know, and which are engrained in Western thought and stereotypes. There is a lot of fun and mischief to be had in deciding how to re-stage them, and having a collective reference point is useful in that any subversion from the original is usually very obvious. Using a 'sacred' story helps with a crassness, a brevity and an absurdity that is important to me in this work. 
I like work which is by turns comedic and challenging. There is some use of body work/nudity in the show which for me is often about re-contextualising imagery and attempting to attain my own agency within the paradigm of a capitalist, binary, post feminist society. I use my body with a fair amount of irreverence. It is almost a prop... A way to illustrate something or ridiculously further the narrative of the show. It's been important and interesting for me to disengage the body from sex, or sensuality. But this show is not out to shock, if anything I'd say it explores a casual performance of radicalism. 
Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
The show is a messy, manic concoction of theatre, cabaret, dance, stand up gig and pop concert. 'Categories' and 'Genres' are interesting to me within a derivative post-internet society obsessed with re-makes, rehashes and redistribution. I've settled on this piece as a 'trash-step-dub-punk-nu-wave-post-popular-non-binary-socially engaged-experiential-experience'. 

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