Writers: Heather Malone &Thomas Matthews
Reviewer: Jo Beggs
Crimson Skye is the Texan burlesque alter ego of Heather Malone. She’s also a serial killer. Starting as the subject of a five minute act, Crimson has turned out to be just too big a character to contain. Now she has a troubled childhood, a string of victims and a story to tell. As she awaits her final moments in the electric chair she shares it with us, along with a few Patsy Cline numbers.
This quirky slice of dark humour is not for the easily offended or feint hearted. A serial killer themed game show (Slay Your Cards Right), a somewhat livened up version of The Vagina Monologues, some cheeky burlesque and an execution, there’s plenty here to offend. But you have to assume that the people making a noisy exit following a particularly naughty joke either haven’t read the publicity or took “disturbing”, “striptease” and “severed head” to mean something completely different.
Malone delivers her burlesque bottom-shaking and black comedy with equal charm. She’s a delightful performer to watch, which is no bad thing, because Death Row Diva is over-long and under-rehearsed. There are numerous technical hitches, particularly with the projected images and film, but also with the sound, and Malone stumbles on much of the script, but she has enough physical allure, charisma and improvisation ability to sail right through regardless. There is plenty of great material here, showing that Malone and co-writer Thomas Matthews have no shortage of comic writing talent, but the show could use a severe edit, which would tighten it up and make the jokes punchier. Reducing the eighty minutes to sixty would seem like a good move all round. A handful of well-placed Patsy Cline songs work well within the context of Crimson Skye’s disturbing story, (‘Crazy’ will never sound the same again now I’ve seen it performed in a Hannibal Lecter-style mask!) but they do slow the pace and could be cropped a bit. Malone actually looks at her least confident when delivering them too, but that might have been the uncertainty of working with an erratic backing track.
Death Row Diva is a bit of mess, but it’s a rather triumphant mess that makes you want to see what Crimson Skye – and Heather Malone – might come up with next. I, for one, will be watching out for her.