Written by Holly Stars
Directed by Jesse Jones
Royalty has descended upon high to grace the rabble of Edinburgh this week at the King’s Theatre. And though they may gather with alternative motivations than once revealed, Lady Von Fistenburg’s anniversary dinner finds itself with a few more hiccups than a backed-up toilet and crispy pancake starters. Direct from the glitterati of the Westend, Death Drop struts into Scotland ready to appease a ravenous audience, hungry for sass, glamour, humour and perhaps just an ounce or two of scatological humour and swiss rolls.
It’s 1991; only slightly different to now. The food is as trashy, as are the politics, and the royal family is on the verge of a scandal to end all scandals. In honour of Princess Diana and Prince Charles’ wedding anniversary – Lady Von Fistenburg throws a wild soirée for the noble, illustrious, and cheapest guests she can find. But as the evening takes a turn and bodies begin to rack up, it seems everyone is sat on a secret or two – some small, and some well, rather difficult to tuck away.
To single-out any performer for their role would be cruel (and potentially life-threatening) but considering Holly Stars’ role not only as all three Bottomley sisters but in writing Christopher D.Clegg’s initial idea, there’s a much deserved praise to be found. Stars finds a sublime balance in the tatty, yet delicious. A script lampooning the roots of British Theatre legend The Mousetrap, Star twists Death Drop into a double-entendre riddled extravagance, think pantomime squarely for the adults, with jabs, jokes, lip-synchs and a few twists to keep even the most dedicated of Drag fans on their toes.
And on the subject of riddled… master of sleaze Phil Maker is a guest this evening, portrayed with the lustful energy, and revolting charisma by queer performer Georgia Frost. A thrusting balance to the Queens, the presence of Phil Maker and other King performer Richard Energy as the aptly named Conservative MP Rich Whiteman smooths out the production and incorporates additional elements. They do have a penchant for stealing the scenes– transforming once worrying roles of misogynistic cut-outs into physical performances and stage control which marks the first time a Scottish stage has been happy to see a Tory MP.
And there aren’t only corpses on-stage. Corpsing galore, Death Drop is a prime candidate from improv and performers succumbing to their gags. Handled well, gracefully, or by shoving a pashmina in their face to hide the sniggers, there’s a freshness to the production which encourages the audience to relax and enjoy. Though it must be said – the wolf whistles and heckles from the audience, while encouraging to hear audiences engage, aren’t necessary and props to Willam for their masterful take-down of the rowdier crowd members.
Vocally adept, Willam certainly demands their spotlight moments for Shazza. A professional narcissist, liar, and all-around sexual sensation Shazza may seem like a stretch for Willam (at least that last part), and yet – they’re remarkably comfortable and engaging onstage. Willam’s infamous deadpan delivery is a sublime match for the bombastic energies of Vinegar Strokes and Ra’Jah O’Hara. The pair are comedic champions but possess a deft control of the stage few others can rob from them – particularly Dan Jacob, who fans of the first UK Drag Race series will recall. A vocal powerhouse with a razor wit and silver tongue – Vinegar Strokes has a charming air and killer attitude, lifting all those around her, and working particularly well with Willam and Karen from Finance.
But that isn’t to say it’s all champagne and caviar – more Lambrini and Fray Bentos. The second act is a cluster, and while the comedic performances are solid, Death Drop was never created to win gold for its drama or tension. Though set designer Justin Williams and sound designer Beth Duke are winning every award for attempting to evacuate the audiences’ bowels with fright. And Jesse Jones freeform direction enables the cast to run riot, though in areas might need to tighten the leash a little – but we’re definitely not brave enough to be the one to do that.
Wherever you are, if it isn’t here – you’re in the wrong place. Death Drop is a lively and dynamic breed of theatre, a showcase spectacular which demonstrates the accessibility and open arms of Drag as both its historical significance and its more contemporary cabaret visage. But for all the gags and tomfoolery, there’s perhaps one profound, touching, and sensible piece to take away from this evening: “fuck the Tories”.
Death Drop runs at the King’s Theatre until November 20th. Tickets for which can be booked here.
Photo Credit – Matt Crockett