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jaydarcy
10th March 2023

Review: Death Drop – Back in the Habit

Death Drop: Back in the Habit is an hilarious, daring and surprisingly sociopolitical play starring drag icons Jujubee, Cheryl Hole, Victoria Scone, Kitty Scott-Claus, and LoUis CYfer
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Review: Death Drop – Back in the Habit
Photo: Kitty Scott-Claus, Jujubee, Cheryl Hole, LoUis CYfer, and Victoria Scone. Photo: Danny Kaan

With drag bans taking place across the US, and anti-drag rhetoric permeating the 51st state (the UK, that is), it’s incredible to see a drag play tour the nation and pack huge theatres full of people.

Whilst drag shows are very common, drag plays are not. Peaches Christ occasionally comes to the UK with a drag play/musical – I caught Hocum Pokem (a parody of Hocus Pocus) a few years back, and she’s bringing Mommie Queerest (a parody of Mommie Dearest) to Manchester next month – but they are more fringe-style productions.

Death Drop, meanwhile, made its premiere on the West End, had two West End revivals, and embarked on a huge UK tour, followed by another tour for its standalone sequel (Back in the Habit). This is a new generation of theatre!

Whilst the original Death Drop was a whodunnit, à la Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None (it was even billed as “A Dragatha Christie Murder Mystery”), the sequel is something quite different. It is set in a seemingly haunted convent, where all of the nuns are drag queens. The queens (I mean nuns) receive a visit from a chauvinistic, misogynistic, and homophobic priest (played by drag king LoUis CYfer, who I recently interviewed). Father Alfie Romeo has been sent to investigate strange occurrences at the convent – and he gets more than he bargained for!

The rest of the main cast is made up of Drag Race stars.

Jujubee does her best (intentionally bad) Julie Andrews impression as Sister Maria Julieandrews. Her character, though expandable (she says so herself), is responsible for some of the funniest moments. In an early scene, the other sisters are complaining about her lateness (and dumbness) when we hear her screaming.

The set includes three sets of wings which are designed to look like corridors, and Sister Maria repeatedly runs through each of them, completely oblivious to the fact that the other sisters are right there in the middle of the hall. Later in the first act, Maria and Romeo walk along the halls of the convent – but they walk on the spot and set is moved sideways and forwards and backwards to create a cinematographic effect. The actors half-break out of character, aware of the technique, and work extra hard to make it believable, which has the adverse effect.

The breaking of the fourth wall was definitely a highlight of this pantomime-like play. At the end of the play, one of the Sisters claims to be exhausted. Jujubee says, “You’re exhausted? Try doing a British accent for two hours!”, to which Sis Titis (Kitty Scott-Claus) responds something like, “You should try that”.

In another scene towards the end of the play, Mother Superior asks something like, “What is missing about now?”, to which Sis Titis responds, “Willam” – referencing the fact that she has stepped into the role originated by Willam, the (drag) Queen of Queens. Victoria Scone (Mother Superior) joked, “We could no longer afford her so we ended up with you!”

Scone, one of the world’s most famous female drag queens, is deliciously devious as Mother Superior. The accent she put on sounded quite familiar. Then, Mother Superior revealed that her name is Mother Mary Kimberly Woodburn and it all made sense!

Lastly, fan favourite Cheryl Hole plays Sister Mary Berry – who initially shines in the background before stealing the show with her hilarious possession.

The script, hilarious though it may be, fails to live up to the masterpiece that is the original Death Drop – truly, one of the funniest things I have ever seen. The original was written by Holly Stars (who also starred in the play). Stars was not involved with the creation of the second play. I’m reminded of Marc Cherry’s lack of creative involvement during the sophomore season of Desperate Housewives, which led to a decline in quality. Back in the Habit is no doubts an entertaining play but Stars set the bar so high, and she (like Cherry) has a very specific style of writing and comedy – which was missed.

Whilst the comedy had the audience in stitches, the script relied too much on shock factor. Nuns being inappropriate is funny, yes, but it soon becomes tiresome.

Further, I do wonder if the Jesus joke went a little far. The play literally features a relic of Jesus Christ… his anus (the “most famous anus”). I laughed, of course, before biting my lips. I did the same thing during ‘Hasa Diga Eebowai’ in The Book of Mormon, with its repetition of “F*** you, God”.

That said, Christianity (and Islam, yes) has long been unkind to queer people, and most of this cast and creative team are presumably from Christian backgrounds, so you can appreciate the play’s comedic and creative criticisms of organised religion.

The play is silly and funny but there is also plenty of sociopolitical commentary, especially seen in the hate-filled Father Romeo. The play ends with Mother Superior (who leads a gaggle of nuns that don’t even know how to read grace) telling us that everyone is welcome in this convent – and that is, by far, the most impactful criticism of the unkindness of conservative Christians in this brilliantly blasphemous comedy.

 

Death Drop: Back in the Habit runs at Manchester Opera House until March 12 before transferring to The Alexandra, Birmingham for the final stop of its UK tour. You haven’t got long left to catch this show so be prepared to kill for a ticket!

Jay Darcy

Jay Darcy

Theatre Editor. Instagram & Twitter: @jaydarcy7. Email: [email protected].

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