Death Drop – Criterion Theatre, London 

Reviewer: Kane Taylor

Writer: Holly Stars, based on an original idea by Christopher D. Clegg

Director: Jesse Jones

It is 1991, and five colourful characters are summoned to Tuck Island for a celebration of the 10th Wedding Anniversary of Charles and Diana by a mysterious unmet host. Trapped by the sudden onset of a storm, the invitees grow ever more suspicious as their fellow guests one-by-one perish in increasingly comically absurd ways. This dragged up whodunit is a fabulously farcical fresh take on a tried and tested genre by Holly Stars with (long) legs for entertainment — warts, fumbles, falls and all.

Sitting in the light — perhaps at times the shadow — of their respective successes in the now global phenomena of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Jujubee and Kitty Scott-Claus as Summer Raine and Shazza head up the cast of the new production to fans’ delight. Aptly named meteorologist Summer Raine manages to slip in the odd bespoke reference for Jujubee lovers, including a weather report which describes the temperature in Northern England as a ‘sensible 74’ degrees (or a sweaty 23 Celsius). Death Drop is so aligned with the RuPaul’s Drag Race franchise that at times you’d be forgiven for thinking it was an extended ‘acting challenge’; this feels like it’s all part of the slapstick charm. The show is a ceaseless barrage of gags that range from toilet humour to the more political, with the assurance that if one joke doesn’t land then the next surely will.

Its pantomime-ish charm doesn’t quite manage to rectify the issues with its story-board, however, which starts strong but feels like it never quite gets going. Instead of building up campy tension, there are lulls in pace and action that burden the show’s otherwise bubbly drive. One of the biggest issues here is the inclusion of songs, which feel like a shoehorned convention that dissipates the punch of the show’s comedic potential. Lacking in clarity and confidence, it’s an all-too-familiar sight for fans of the genre to see a ‘song gone wrong’ for a Drag Race Queen.

Jesse Jones’ direction is a notably witty play on the genre, married with an impactful set design by Justin Williams to give a spooky ‘90s feel worthy of The Addams Family. As lights flicker and television sets blow across the course of the queens’ demises, Jack Weir’s lighting design is a visual joy that brings life and excitement to the stage and punctuates the show’s turning points.

Death Drop is a cheeky, campy and playful new take on murder mystery that brings mainstream global drag to the stage. With a drag-star studded line-up of performers, it’s an entertainingly unique production that while brimming with laughs doesn’t quite pay off in the execution of its storyline and performances.

Runs until 24 April 2022

The Reviews Hub Score

Fabulously farcical

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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