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Lucy McCormick's Life: Live! at Battersea Arts Centre – review

The venue reopens for live performances

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Lucy McCormick in Life: Live
© Holly Revell

Lucy Muck is back, and this time she's aiming for world domination. In one of the most bizarre yet transcendent reopening shows you're likely to see, Muck – alter ego of performance artist Lucy McCormick – ostensibly performs a gig of songs from her debut album, which quickly spirals into something way beyond.

During the catchy opening number "Let You Go" she takes the logistically brave decision to cover herself in paint, and it soon becomes apparent this is one of her more modest get-ups. Her designer and onstage sidekick Morven Mulgrew engineers a range of costumes including a headdress bigger than anything you'll see in The Lion King, a wig on a stick and a self-raining umbrella. By the end she is wearing what I can only describe as a poorly inflated bouncy castle.

The songs themselves are difficult to categorise, but play in the kind of pop-rock territory that seems so ubiquitous at the top of the Spotify charts; the highlight comes when she utilises the large pipe organ at the back of BAC's Grand Hall as the blinds are raised to let the evening light flood in. It's a genuinely spiritual moment, aided by McCormick's ethereal voice, which falls somewhere between Florence Pugh and Eliza Doolittle. She is standing at the top of a piece of scaffolding at the time, obviously.

Known for her ability to shock – during her show Post Popular she pulled chocolates out of her vagina – there is nothing quite as provocative on show here. This is partly due to enforced distancing between herself and the audience. "If we were doing this in two weeks' I could've been singing that song on your lap," she teases. However she does pull off an impressive pole-dancing routine, following it up by asking breezily "what did you do with your lockdown?"

Musicians Chloe Rianna and Dave Page – who Muck is constantly questioning and belittling – keep admirable time considering the many distractions. Needless to say, they are rarely afforded the spotlight, and at one point are drowned out entirely by Mulgrew operating a power saw. The music itself more than fills the cavernous space, and much of it, such as the prescient "Are You Well?", treads a fine line between parody and poignancy.

If what I'm describing sounds random, chaotic and even shambolic, that's because it is. But there is also something incredibly joyous about the reckless abandonment with which McCormick has thrown herself at this. Considering we have been living with some form of social restrictions for nearly 18 months, the sight of a performer going to these extremes of expression is incredibly cathartic.

Having firmly achieved cult status, it's no surprise the show sold out within 24 hours (a fact Muck references, calling her audience "creepy… a bit too keen"). So it may be hard to get hold of a ticket. But then again it would definitely be worth waiting until an incarnation without social distancing, which is an electrifying - if mildly terrifying - prospect.

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