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3 min

Performance artist Lucy McCormick is queering the New Testament

Triple Threat makes its North American debut at OUTstages

Lucy McCormick queers the New Testament in Triple Threat Credit: Courtesy The Other Richard

Lucy McCormick isn’t afraid of controversy. Her latest show Triple Threat features a bevy of foul language, nudity and Nutella smearing. Oh and it’s all about Jesus.

Casting herself in all the main roles, McCormick sings, dances and acts through a queering of the New Testament.

After sold-out runs at the Edinburgh Fringe and London’s Soho Theatre, the UK artist arrives at Intrepid Theatre’s OUTstages. The annual showcase brings red-hot queer creators from across Canada and around the world to Victoria, BC. This year’s event features Waawaate Fobister, Ivan Coyote, and Riot Grrrls Burlesque Revue, among others.

McCormick describes Triple Threat as a “trash-step dub-punk new wave post-popular socially engaged experiential experience,” that has the ambitious task of condensing the New Testament — the four books of the Gospel — into just under 60 minutes.

“The New Testament is such a huge part of western culture,” she says. “Even if you didn’t grow up religious, you know a lot of the story somehow. The show is about how that story has shaped me and the society I live in, even when we’re really not aware of it.”

McCormick says she doesn’t have a personal relationship with the church but, “the project was more about exploring how we collectively understand these stories and how I, identifying as female and as queer, can go about telling them.”

“It’s not the entire New Testament obviously. The show’s only an hour long, so I’ve just chosen highlights, which is part of the absurdity of the whole thing.”

Her journey from small-town girl to kooky queer performance artist began when she left the English countryside for London to study acting at 19. Her training was quite traditional, including a heavy dose of Shakespeare and after graduating she’d initially imagined a more conventional theatrical path.

But her professional life took a detour, courtesy of the queer club scene. Instead of classical repertory theatre for aging audiences, she began creating 10-minute club acts for boozy crowds in gay bars. As she continued to develop pieces, the idea of using the Bible as source material emerged.

“I liked the idea of telling these epic stories in a nightclub,” she says. “Those spaces are full of huge feelings, passion and ecstasy, so it felt really appropriate to use the club as a church.”

While she initially had no plans for a larger show, as more pieces fell into place the possibility began to emerge. She knew the material worked in a club, so the big task was to figure out how it could function in a conventional theatrical setting.

“There’s a completely different contract with an audience when you’re asking them to sit for an hour and pay attention to you,” McCormick says. “You have to offer them something different. But that also means you can let things rest a bit and people won’t just turn to their friends and start talking.”

The show maintains much of its messy DIY aesthetic in its transfer from club to theatre. In between choreographed numbers and sketches, McCormick often addresses the audience directly, chatting about feminism, sexuality and her own desire for stardom.

Credit: Courtesy The Other Richard

“Being able to play Jesus, Mary, Mary Magdalene and God in the same show lets me explore my frustrations with gender politics, feminism, and queer theory,” she continues. “Having said that, maybe for the next show I will try the Old Testament.”

Religion can be a controversial topic for artists to explore; while the subject matter may seem ripe for controversy McCormick notes that, for better or worse, Triple Threat has been spared any public backlash.

“Unfortunately, there haven’t been any protests,” McCormick laughs. “We haven’t been playing huge theatres, so maybe it’s just not getting the attention it would need to generate that kind of outcry. We’ve gotten some press so there might be a few pissed off people in the comments section. But I never read those.”