Look away now if you’re easily offended. Lucy McCormick’s Triple Threat begins as it means to go on: with McCormick’s highly-sexed and potty-mouthed Virgin Mary making free with a crucifix on stage. A seasoned performance artist, McCormick’s distinct DIY aesthetic and no-holds-barred theatre style arrives in Edinburgh for the first time, in a show that has to be one of the Fringe’s most explicit. Its title, Triple Threat, so-called after McCormick’s tripartite talent as singer, dancer and actor, also alludes to the subject of McCormick’s comic pinioning: the Holy Trinity and the New Testament, which she spins into three acts of increasingly sacrilegious subversion.
The show marries high religion with trashy pop culture, creating a heady mix of song and religious iconoclasm, as McCormick rattles through biblical events. She retells Christ’s nativity from Mary’s perspective, then Christ, fresh from the womb, and then the Magi. Using food as her props, things get messy quickly: holy baptism is in mayonnaise and Christ is tempted by fags, drink and Nutella during his forty desert-bound days. Much of the play’s comedy comes from seeing how McCormick interprets biblical events, as well as what events she chooses not to include: so Christ’s crucifixion is ditched, as are his miracles. Instead, her focus is on the women on the sidelines of biblical history, like her dolled-up Mary Magdalene: not an example of feminist revisionism per se, but an opportunity for McCormick to get intimate with her dance partners, two ripped men in briefs and bikinis and little else.
McCormick is a performer like no other: immediately engaging with her dry and caustic style, she is also a dazzling storyteller. In her hands, the play feels spontaneous and supple, responsive to the mood of the audience each night. As a performer she is fearless, to the point you become concerned for her safety: Christ’s heavenly ascension has McCormick crowd-surf over the audience to the theatre’s exit. She’s pantless too, because a large part of the performance is about exposing—or perhaps exploiting—Christ’s latent sexuality: so Judas’ Kiss is more of a snog and doubting Thomas penetrates every (and I mean every) orifice before he finally comes to believe. What you think permissible on stage has to be adjusted throughout the evening just to keep up with her antics.
McCormick’s performance is exhilarating and will delight many but also, inevitably, offend; walk-outs have plagued the run. McCormick has spent most of her career developing her work with audiences at cabaret clubs and niche queer venues in London, so it will be interesting to see the show’s response when unleashed on tour. But smashing biblical events into a modern context proves a winning formula for comedy and this short hour of material has room to be expanded further.
Lucy McCormick is playing at the Underbelly until August 28. It transfers to the Soho Theatre later this year.