You’re never quite the same after watching Lucy Hopkins perform. People walk out of her shows excited and slightly stunned – with a new sense of wonder about the world.
Hopkins is a trickster, a medium and a shapeshifter, who walks the tightrope between humour and horror and brings the concentration of a séance to her performance.
For her new work ‘Dark Mother’ Hopkins eschews the cabaret trappings of nudity, feathers and glitter for an understated tuxedo and top hat. It seems a rather masculine choice of outfit for a show about the feminine – but who can guess what she might have in mind.
“It’s quite elegant,” she says. “I wear a dinner jacket and braces, a fine wool jumper knitted by my friend and a necklace that belonged to her mother. There are reasons,” she says, darkly.
Hopkins trained in fine art before running away to Paris in her early twenties, where she took classes at the Le Coq theatre school before finding Phillipe Gaulier, the famous clown master, whose students include Dr Brown, Emma Thompson and Sacha Baron Cohen.
Gaulier helped her channel her own inimitable voice and style.
“I remember him saying a couple of times: ‘That’s good’ and I remember it was always at the moment when I felt ‘This is it. This is exactly what I want to do.
“He sees the part of you that you are trying to hide – and he speaks to that. And he encourages you to go towards your own pleasure – and to bring the audience into that.”
In previous shows Hopkins has been known to induce people to sing and make bird noises, to interpret the contents of their pockets and to tell their fortunes with the help of her vagina. As a performer she changes in appearance before your eyes. She can appear startlingly beautiful or unbelievably odd looking. I wouldn’t be completely surprised to discover she could fly.
‘The Dark Mother’ is a rebirthing after the collective experience of Covid. She says: “It’s a show being born of a desire to bring light after the darkness and a recognition of the wild importance of tiny moments. It’s about… the feminine situation.”
Hopkins is very funny – but in an odd way – almost by stealth. “I never know it’s going to be funny – but whatever I do it tends to turn out funny.”
“It’s scary too. I was always scared of the dark when I was a kid. But being in a dark room with other people is very funny.”
‘Dark Mother’ is the first show Hopkins has performed in the double decker Fringe venue Bob’s Blundabus. She has been the artistic director of the bus for five years – but normally stages her own performances in the soft enclaves of a nearby yurt.
This year the yurt has been packed away. For a while it seemed that even the Bus would not be appearing in Edinburgh – until the notoriously wily Bob Slayer persuaded the construction workers to budge up a bit and let him park in the usual spot.
Hopkins also revives her acclaimed pre-pandemic show ‘Ceremony of Golden Truth’ at the new venue Pianodrome, in the old Royal High School. In it Hopkins appears painted in gold, part bird, part Goddess, in turn seducing, entrancing and slyly menacing her subjects.
Since theatres and festivals have opened up again post Covid, Hopkins sees a change in audiences – with a greater willingness to interact. She feels people are more open, happier to break down barriers and join in.
“I have been doing intimate shows or happenings. Coming back after the pandemic I feel people are much more ready to engage in that way.
“We have all lived through a really big thing and it has changed us.
“To be together in that way feels more like medicine than ever.
“It makes me feel more hopeful and optimistic than ever that people are ready to get together and to get things done.”
Bob’s Blundabus, 22.40, August 4-13, 19 – 28
Ceremony of Golden Truth
The Pianodrome at the Old Royal High, 19.00, August 13-16