Niamh Melody gives an affirming shantay you stay to the first UK tour of new drag murder mystery, Death Drop.
Seeing a production that’s only been on the stage for a year or so is always a treat for the well versed theatre-goers. There’s a different sense of anticipation when there’s less of a reputation for the cast to live up to – in comparison to acclaimed and globally well known musicals who’s entire soundtracks are listened to non-stop.
But the downside to this is that new productions have to stand out more to make their mark; the audience won’t know the plot or have a standout song to look forward to which means the cast have to land their jokes, hit all the notes and leave the audience talking about it for days afterwards.
Death Drop certainly did just that. The show starts with Vinegar Strokes – as seen on Drag Race UK – as the fabulous yet mysterious host, Lady Von Fistenburg and she fits naturally into this role with dramatic mannerisms and ominous cackling throughout. Set in 1991, a supposedly random group of guests are joining the Lady on Tuck Island to celebrate Princess Diana and Prince Charles’ wedding anniversary. Within no time, the party has turned into a murder mystery as the guests seem to be dropping like flies – only to miraculously rise again to deliver key one-liners – and typically, they also realise they’re stranded on the island because of a terrible storm.
The plot becomes almost irrelevant however, as the focus is much more on the characters themselves and the constant gags they provide. Drag race legend, Willam is pitch perfect as Shazza, a washed-up pop star who reminds everyone constantly that she does “not” want to be asked to sing. Ra’Jah O’Hara is also a delight to watch as Summer Raines, bubbly weather girl with more to her than meets the eye. A special mention should go to costume designer, Isobel Pellow as the outfits were eye-catching throughout especially when it came to Shazza, Summer and the Lady’s varying outfit changes in typical drag queen fashion.
Although predictable and occasionally too close to ‘panto’, this show proves that drag artists really do own every stage they stand on. Holly Stars (also the writer of Death Drop) stands out as all three of the hilarious Bottomley sisters hired as the help for the party, providing hilarious quips – including several about the delicacy that is crispy pancakes – that kept the audience laughing. Equally scene-stealing is Karen from Finance – known from Drag Race Down Under – who plays Morgan Pierce, an outrageously funny reversal of Piers Morgan, who spends the show playing up the role of the journalist with her camera flashing and recorder always at the ready to get a new scoop.
Drag Kings, Richard Energy (as Rich Whiteman) and Georgia Frost (as Phil Maker) are both cringeworthy but entertainingly so with their very accurate portrayals of unapologetically misogynistic men.
Breaking of the fourth wall is done continuously throughout which can always be risky, but with a show such as this, verging so close to pantomime standard, it worked well and had the audience laughing out loud consistently. The murder mystery side of the show does get lost in the framework with no real suspense felt over who is behind everything. But director, Jesse Jones deserves kudos for the way the show is so perfectly chaotic in every aspect, with crude jokes, incredible albeit unfortunately short musical numbers and great onstage chemistry between a very small cast.
Death Drop is light-hearted, packed with comedy and is exactly what everyone needs after almost two years away from the stage.