Disaster ensues when Lady von Fistenberg (Vinegar Strokes) invites an odd assortment of dinner guests to an elegant soirée on the remote Tuck Island
Starring Courtney Act, Monét X Change, Kemah Bob, LoUis CYfer, Anna Phylactic, Holly Stars, and Vinegar Strokes
Just what is it about murder mysteries that have audiences so hooked? After all, Agatha Christie is the bestselling author of all time, and her stories continue to have enduring appeal. Her influence is certainly felt here in Holly Stars’ writing. There’s all the classic elements that make a good murder mystery come to life: the gothic location, the unpredictable power, the lack of ability to escape, the assembled guests shrouded in secrecy, with many skeletons hiding in their closet… These are all story elements that are familiar, and yet continue to be gripping. Even though what Death Drop ultimately serves is silly, and downright nonsensical in places, it is nonetheless entirely barmy, giddy fun for all those who witness it.
Death Drop brings drag royalty together in mysterious circumstances to the manor of Lady von Fistenberg (Vinegar Strokes), who none of the invitees have met before, to celebrate Charles and Diana’s 10th wedding anniversary (“It’s ‘91!”, to the tune of “The Show Must Go On” makes this brilliantly clear within the opening minutes). Not only does the hostess herself seem to harbour a dangerous secret, but each of the attendees are enigmas in themselves, and, in true Christie fashion, subtly linked to each other. There’s American weather girl Summer Raines (Monét X Change), who shares a history with sleazy filmmaker Phil Maker (Kemah Bob). There’s also Conservative MP for Uxbridge Rich Whiteman (LoUis CYfer), who despises exploitative World of the News editor Morgan Pierce (Anna Phylactic) – though he’s hardly alone in that respect. Finally, the celebrity of the evening is ‘80s Australian pop sensation Shazza (Courtney Act) who is most definitely not to be confused with Kylie. Perhaps the least mysterious characters are the working class triplets Brie, Blue and Spread (their mother liked cheeses), played by Holly Stars, who is providing the catering for the evening.
It becomes apparent almost immediately that there are some secret, hidden connections between our guests, even if none of them are any the wiser as to why Lady von Fistenberg has invited them there. With a storm rendering the only bridge off Tuck Island useless, and the phone lines not working, things become even more tense when the bodies start dropping…
There’s lots to appreciate of Death Drop. Firstly, there’s the brilliant cast themselves. There are so many drag superstars on stage that it’s sometimes difficult to know where to look. Kemah Bob embodies the sleazy Phil Maker incredibly well, though perhaps too well, as nobody especially minds when they, inevitably, end up on the chopping block. Courtney Act also demonstrates brilliant energy and acting chops as Shazza. Hands down, however, the most amusing performers would have to be Holly Stars and LoUis CYfer. Holly Stars gets some of the best material (unsurprisingly, considering she’s the writer), as the working class triplets constantly talk about food. One particular highlight is a silly section in which the Bottomley triplets talk about their extended family, which results in a wonderful set of tongue twisters. It’s thoroughly predictable once it gets going, but it’s still marvellously entertaining to watch the cast wrapping their tongue around these tricky linguistics. LoUis CYfer’s bumbling Rich Whiteman is an absolute treat to watch. Everything from the voice to the demeanour is brilliant spot on, and even if there aren’t any jokes being said, the delivery is consistently hilarious.
Though the entire trip to the theatre was delightful, the pacing of the performance could be refined. There’s an overly long second half, which runs to 90 minutes (the first act is only 60 minutes). Often the second act gets bogged down too much in the plot, but goes at a much more rapid pace than the first half. Ultimately, the resolution to the plot is downright strange, while a much more amusing and ominous ending could have been devised (seriously, I thought one up on the way home and it’s genuinely annoying that’s not the direction that was taken). The first half, despite being significantly shorter than the second, seems to drag, as each of the characters are introduced in succession. The success of the show certainly comes from having all of the performers on stage interacting as much as possible, as the energy and pace drags when only one or two are on stage, and persistent character quirks in a dialogue situation get dull, while they can be snappier in group scenarios.
With London entering Tier 3, tickets may be somewhat hard to come by. Originally scheduled to end its run on the 17th January, how much of the run that will be performed is uncertain, but Death Drop is mostly certainly incredibly entertaining and worth a watch.