When I first heard that drag queens were going to take on murder mystery, I was pretty shocked – but also surprised that nobody had thought of this before. What a genius idea!
Direct from the West End – albeit with a different cast – Death Drop is a camp, dark comedy that sees a flamboyant host welcome an array of eccentric guests to her home (Shantay Manor, of course) on a dark, stormy night. One by one, the guests kick the bucket, hit the fan and choke on pancakes, as mysteries are unravelled and secrets are revealed.
Featuring a cast of international drag queens, the stars of the show are RuPaul’s Drag Race‘s Willam and Ra’Jah O’Hara. They’re joined by Drag Race UK star Vinegar Strokes and Drag Race Down Under (Australia) star Karen from Finance – the latter of which was recently interviewed by The Mancunion.
The play is written by Holly Stars, who also stars in the show – as identical triplets, the Bottomley sisters.
Stars’ writing is arguably the best part of the show (and this show has a lot of great parts). Each scene is an overdose of sardonicism and sass (and, occasionally, sex and sick – the latter of which might just kill you). Even the show’s title is brilliant, as are the subtitles ‘murder is such a drag’ and ‘Dragatha Christie’.
I particularly loved it when the play took a turn towards meta. There were instances where the cast addressed the audience, both directly and indirectly, and even times when the cast slipped out of character – portraying fictionalised versions of themselves, aware that they are in a play.
The most memorable meta moment came when one of the Bottomley sisters brought one of her sisters onstage, even though they are both played by the same actress. When another character reminded Holly that she is covering the role of all three sisters tonight, she told them that she had sorted it.
She then brought another actor onstage – whose character had recently met an untimely demise – now dressed as one of the Bottomley sisters. This actor (I will not say who so not to reveal who dies) initially refused to say their line before finally giving in. My description of this scene really does it no justice; it has to be one of the funniest live theatre scenes I’ve ever seen.
There was also an accidental meta moment. Vinegar Strokes seemed to have forgotten her line and ended up giggling, which would be scandalous in a more serious production, but in a drag production, it just added to the humour and enjoyment of the show.
Vinegar struggled to get herself together – though, miraculously, her co-stars all kept serious faces. The audience laughed and whooped, leading her to come to the front of the stage and take a bow, before getting back in character and finally saying her line.
The way that Vinegar handled this slip-up – even though she did not properly recover from it – was fantastic.
The cast, as a whole, deserve so much credit. Every single one of them embodied their character so well. I was very pleased to see drag kings onstage – they don’t get enough appreciation.
For those of you unsure what a drag king is – it’s basically the opposite of a drag queen: “mostly female performance artists who dress in masculine drag and personify male gender stereotypes”.
The “mostly female” part is especially important: gender is about blurring the lines of (if not even discarding) gender, so it really doesn’t matter who is in drag. A man can be a drag king, and a woman can be a drag queen – that is to say a person who does drag as their own gender. In fact, one of the best drag queens I’ve ever seen was a woman: Holestar in Hocum Pokem!
This drag whodunnit is an absolute riot. I honestly can’t fault a single thing. I always bang on about how much I love a big set – one that transports you to the setting/location – and this one did not disappoint. The costumes were obviously going to be incredible – it’s drag! – and I must also give a shout-out to the show’s use of sound and lighting (and lightning).
Whilst the show was a play, there were a few music numbers – Vinegar and Willam got to show off their vocals – that were especially enjoyable. Death Drop really throws everything at you except the kitchen sink – but after the Bottomley sisters throw faeces at you (I did tell you that things “hit the fan”), you might be wanting that kitchen sink!
Death Drop continues its UK tour throughout 2021. When it comes slaying in a town near you, be prepared to kill for a ticket!