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Lucy McCormick’s Life: LIVE! at Battersea Arts Centre | Review

Lucy McCormick turns wannabe pop icon as she presents Lucy Muck’s first album, raising the roof (and the floor!) in this subversive pop concert at Battersea Arts Centre. In collaboration with set and costume designer Morven Mulgrew, and a live on-stage band, McCormick finds herself reflecting on loneliness and stardom, as she tries to “find herself” through an increasingly absurd, often sombre or self-deprecating, series of songs (and the occasional dance break thrown in for good measure).

Lucy McCormick Life LIVE Battersea Arts Centre 2021 Credit Holly Revell.
Lucy McCormick Life LIVE Battersea Arts Centre 2021 Credit Holly Revell.

McCormick rose to fame in the realm of contemporary performance with her previous shows Triple Threat and Post Popular. Her on-stage persona is often feisty, confrontational. She introduces her fellow performers/collaborators, before proceeding to dismiss or undermine them. But something’s happened to Lucy over lockdown. There’s still definitely all of that old stuff going on, but she seems more lost, desperate for attention. Her album features songs which, unlike the previous slickness and polished spectacle of her musical numbers, are less precise. The chaos is very much still there, but it’s less structured. Lyrics are often lost in the echoes from speakers that are turned up just that bit too loud. At other times, the performance is calm, almost meditative. In her number ‘Rain’, she takes a full-on shower at the back of the Grand Hall. She runs about backstage, muttering into her microphone, coming through the wrong door or instructing her dresser Mulgrew to ‘forget the wheels’. In her previous work, despite the chaos, she’s felt totally in control of the whole thing. It feels different this time. There’s more of a parity between us and her. It’s quite lovely.

Particularly poignant are the monologues or bits of text/conversation that she opens up with the audience. She asks us how we are, what we’ve been up to during lockdown (after performing an impressive pole dancing routine she’s presumably learnt in the last twelve months). She addresses the community of the space. Invites us, everyone in the space, to get together again at some point, whilst acknowledging the impracticality. In doing so, she draws attention to the importance of coming together. A lot of us have spent a year with more of ourselves and our own thoughts than ever before. What do we do with all of these discoveries now we’re back together again? Any given crowd only breathes together for a small moment. This isn’t to say the whole show is a gloomy affair, quite the opposite. It’s littered with humour, outrageous spectacle.

Mulgrew’s costume constructions are extraordinary. Marvellously pompous, ludicrous, for all the right reasons. The highlight is during a moment of real loss of hope, as McCormick crawls beneath the floor of the stage in the grand hall. She sort of mopes there for a bit, before lifting her head through a hole in the middle of it, and taking a stand as the whole floor lifts into an eccentric ballgown.

As she climbs to the top of a lighting scaffold, the curtains around all the windows in the Grand Hall rise, and the bright light of the summer evening floods in and fills the air. Church organs accompany the number, and the whole atmosphere is heavenly. The audience roars for an encore. The whole evening is totally delightful. As she stands in the middle of what I can only describe as a massive black bin bag, which fills most of the stage, it gently fills with air, and wraps around her like a giant inflating bean bag. It cushions her, as she sort of tries to resist it.

The lights come up, and no one really leaves. People hang around on their tables with drinks and friends. It’s quietly joyful.

4 stars

Review by Joseph Winer

Battersea Arts Centre welcomes back in-person audiences for the first time in 16 months with Life: LIVE!. Originally programmed for spring 2020, award-winning live performance artist Lucy McCormick (Triple Threat, Post Popular) has created a new, site-specific version for the Grand Hall. Ahead of her upcoming lead role in NT/Emma Rice’s Wuthering Heights, the subversive live concert extravaganza will showcase Lucy’s debut album of original music about stardom, self-care and redemption, and is the world premier of her live band.

Created by Lucy McCormick in collaboration with Morven Mulgrew
Performers Lucy McCormick & Morven Mulgrew
Musicians Dave Page & Chloe Rianna
Producer Philippa Barr
Songwriting, Composition & Production Joe Reeves
Songwriting & Lyrics Lucy McCormick, Ted Rogers & Samir Kennedy
Set & Costume Design Morven Mulgrew
Lighting Designer and Production Manager Sorcha Mae Stott-Srtzala
Assistant Producer Ella Gamble
Marketing & Web Designer Daniel Hughes
Original Producer Karl Taylor

Venue:  Battersea Arts Centre, Lavender Hill, SW11 5TN
Box Office: 020 7223 2223
Spring season: bac.org.uk/


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