Courtney Act and Monét X Change lead an enthusiastic drag cast in the good cheer and festive fun of Death Drop at the Garrick Theatre
“It’s going to be a classy party – there’s cheese and pineapple on sticks”
Sat in the Garrick Theatre waiting for Death Drop to start, I couldn’t help but smile. Mainly because of the PWL tunes blaring through the sound system (Kylie, Bananarama, SINITTA!) but also because of the significance of seeing a show like this open in a theatre like this. Covid-19 may have swung like a wrecking ball through theatre programmes this year but the first West End production to feature an all-drag cast is a hell of a green shoot of putative recovery (we just won’t mention anything about the looming shadow of Tier 3…).
Written by Holly Stars from an idea by TuckShop’s creative director and producer Christopher D Clegg, Death Drop is billed as ‘a Dragatha Christie murder-mystery’ but ends up close to adult pantomime as it takes itself seriously not one jot and has moments of blissfully outrageous humour. And rather brilliantly, though it features two alumni of RuPaul’s Drag Race in Courtney Act and Monét X Change, you come away just as impressed – if not more so – by drag kings and queens whose names you may not have known but who you’ll now know to look out for.
Set in 1991, as a retooled version of ‘The Show Must Go On’ informs us, a motley crew of characters are invited to a dinner party on the isolated Tuck Island in order to celebrate the 10th wedding anniversary of Charles and Di. But no-one has heard of the host, secret entanglements connect several of the guests and starting with a fatal crispy pancake, one by one they’re sashaying away to the great Interior Illusions Lounge in the sky. Who’s the killer? It doesn’t really matter when the action is as silly as this – whole scenes devoted to tongue-twisters, a smattering of musical numbers and a surreal bent to the second act that is hard to resist.
Given how good it is in its best moments, you can’t help but wish someone had helped Stars wrangle their script just a little more. The opening is dangerously ponderous and the ending doesn’t quite land and you feel that the whole thing could lose 20 minutes to tauten the experience. But there’s no denying the generosity of Jesse James’ production as it encourages such stellar performances from Kemah Bob’ endlessly horny film director, LoUis CYfer’s hilarious Tory politician and Anna Phylactic’s wonderfully waspish tabloid editor. Not to mention Holly Stars emerging as a really rather excellent performer as well, managing to layer in real pathos amongst the hilarity. Just the kind of fun that is needed at a time like this but also a cracking showcase for some deserving talent, including costume designer Isobel Pellow and wig designer Florencia Melone.