What just happened? I left the Grand Hall of Battersea Arts Centre and stepped out in the street, Lucy McCormick’s Life: Live! whirling round my head like a pole dancer. I felt like I’d been punched!
As you’d expect with any diva, the audience was kept waiting for Lucy to come on stage for her first ever rock tour. Suddenly she’s there, bursting through the silver curtain in thigh length boots! She tells us, there’s never a right time to start in life, is there? so just go for it! Bring what you’ve got, even if it’s not quite perfect! Give the audience what they want and let them judge you… In a series of clunky, poorly executed (but absurdly funny) stadium-style spectacular pieces, she lives the dream, becoming a star.
This girl can really sing! She’s also hilarious: all round amazing! And the musicians accompanying her (Dave Page and Chloe Rianna) are nothing short of incredible. Against a fantastic soundtrack, Lucy will do just about anything to entertain, from having paint poured all over her, to wearing a giant monster head with a rod at the back, almost making her a puppet. Morven Mulgrew’s dorky stage manager provides rubbish props, like a wig on a pole, to create dramatic illusion, and facilitates the ridiculous set pieces. The audience love our star, raucously shouting and applauding. But the performance becomes more and more sexualised, as she showers in a giant plastic tube and strips to just a thong, thigh boots and some boob tape, before executing some highly impressive pole dancing.
And that’s when it became clear for me. If we weren’t in the theatre, how would we view that dancing? It smacks of seedy nightclubs and sexual exploitation. Alongside the laughter and her obvious talent, Lucy is showing us a vulnerable human caught up in the pressures of celebrity, prepared to give herself up in any way for success. When she pauses to have little chats with the audience she reveals herself to be an insecure and slightly desperate individual, looking for mates to watch the footy with. Eager for attention, she literally wears the stage: it hangs heavily upon her as she begs us to give an encore, then another. It’s clear this style of performance is a transaction, where we’re buying it all: her body, actions of self-humiliation and female objectification.
If you close your eyes during the show you could be at a fantastic gig – the music is genuinely brilliant, especially when the vibrant sound of the BAC organ (played by Rianna) fills the enormous space, and McCormick absolutely rocks the stage. But when you open your eyes and you look – look and see – the young woman on the stage is not an indestructible rock goddess, but just a human, and a bit crap like the rest of us. The show ends with her performing in a giant inflatable bin bag. Is that her worth? Does it have to be like that? And what’s our role in it? Are we perpetuating this exploitation of women in popular culture?
This is certainly a show in capital letters. It’s a fantastic night out that will make you laugh out loud, but it will also get in your head and challenge you with questions to be answered about social responsibility.
Created by: Lucy McCormick in collaboration with Morven Mulgrew
Songwriting, Composition & Production by: Joe Reeves
Songwriting & Lyrics by: Lucy McCormick, Ted Rogers & Samir Kennedy
Set & Costume Design by: Morven Mulgrew
Original Producer Karl Taylor
Produced by: Philippa Barr
Life: LIVE is playing at the BAC until 15 July. All performances are currently sold out but it may be worth checking with the venue for returns. Further details via the below link.