Death Drop is at The King’s Theatre Edinburgh for a short run this week (Wed 17 Nov to Sat 20 Nov), and this West End hit show was one that I had been looking forward to for a while as I had heard a lot of good things about it. On paper, this show, with its on stage cast of talent, an experienced director, and a production company responsible for many other hit shows should have so easily injected this parody of the murder mystery genre with razor sharp humour and originality.
What happened then, why for me is this show just not only a “Death Drop” right off the stage, but right off the edge of a very high cliff as well? There are many reasons I suppose, but a big part of the problems for me are that many cabaret and drag shows that I have reviewed over the years have been what I expected to experience here, razor sharp humour and something original being brought to the stage. Sadly, for me, this show was neither and a large part of that responsibility has to lie with a script (Holly Stars) that not only appears all too often to be directionless, but also all too often falls back on two very boring and lazy “get out clauses” - bad language and sexually explicit humour that appears to be there just for the sake of it in a feeble attempt to shock an audience. One all too explicit scene in the second half when we are introduced to our “French” detective makes me wonder how this show is rated suitable for 12 year olds.
Set in 1991 in a remote house, the guests are invited to the annual celebration of the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana, but of course all is not as it seems and our main stars from high profile reality television Drag shows Willam, Ra’Jah O’Hara, Vinegar Strokes, and Karen from Finance just have little room to turn this production into the amazing work of theatre that it has the potential to be, and although there are a few brief glimpses here and there, the show ends up stuck in a toilet joke that seems to go on forever and many other over-used jokes and themes. Perhaps another problem is that all of our characters are just cardboard stereotypes that have their origins way back in the dark days of some bad television comedy shows of the 1960s and 1970s. They were not funny then, and are certainly not funny now. The opportunity to write real characters of depth and emotion was missed here and this cast could have injected real life people and some great performances into this show.
By its very nature, this show was always going to be treading a fine line between good and bad taste, there was always going to be that element of “in your face” sexual humour, but all too often innuendos and double entendres simply move into unnecessary crudity. All of this might be perfect in a late night cabaret/drag show setting, but all shows need to suit their audience profile and this was not a late night show where the audience were well into their drinks from the bar, this was a major theatre with an early evening audience. The show also seems to make the mistake of not understanding that by the very act of purchasing a ticket to this show that someone is already on board with the drag format and instead of constantly taking up time reminding the audience of that, this time could have been far better used to for character, plot and humour development.
Maybe in the end it was just me and I was disappointed at this show not living up to my expectations as many people in the audience were obviously finding much to laugh at here, as have so many other audiences who have made this show the hit that it is. I was, however, expecting a show that could maybe capture a little bit of that “Rocky Horror” show magic in a new genre and stage setting and what I got was something that seemed for a few minutes at the opening of the show to have the promise to do something a little special. Despite a few Monty Pythonesque moments and an all too few moments of originality, far too many forced and all too often childish attempts at humour that were simply not funny at all, then quickly meant that this show murdered itself and performed its own “Death Drop”.
Review by Tom King (c) 2021
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