The opening paragraph is usually me trying to set the scene and get you interested in the review that follows. Today, I’m not going to bother with that. All I’m going to say is Drag is Back in the West End as Death Drop Back in the Habit opens at the Garrick Theatre.
The nuns in the convent of St Babs – the patron saint of office supplies – lead a simple life. They are a closed order, separated from the outside world in a convent that is pretty much forgotten by the Church. That is until the arrival of Father Alfie Romeo (LoUis CYfer) arrives. Father Romeo’s mission is threefold. First, he is investigating reports of sinister apparitions and unholy phenomena. Second, he is trying to find out what happened to a previous Vatican emissary, Father Reginald Spanking, and finally, he is there to find any valuable relics, and return them to Rome. The Convent sisters, led by the formidable Mother Superior (Victoria Scone) don’t care that much why Romeo is there, he is not welcome, and to Sister Mary Berry (Cheryl Hole), Sister Maria Julie Andrews (River Medway) and Sis Titis (William Belli), he is just an unwelcome distraction from the life and mission.
Two years ago, as the world emerged from the pandemic, Sam and I saw the first iteration of Death Drop and really enjoyed it. Yes, there were flaws but it didn’t matter. Live theatre was back and after a lockdown that consisted of three seasons of Drag Race to provide entertainment, the art form was everywhere. Move forward to 2022 and playwright Rob Evans could easily just have regurgitated the same story and filled the seats at the Garrick. Luckily, they decided not to go for the easy option and wrote a play that is definitely worthy of being in the West End. The story has a good start, middle and end. It is logical, tight and very funny. In fact, if you took the jokes out, there would still be a first-class story there. But luckily the jokes and puns come thick and fast and the audience gets to follow a story that is both hilarious, full of surprises and, in a couple of places, terrifying.
The story is not enough and the drag royalty on stage elevates a good tale to another level with their performances. The four queens are very different performers but really gel as a group under the leadership of Victoria Scone’s Mother Superior, and become a real force to be reckoned with. Drag kings don’t receive nearly as much public approbations as drag queens and yet are equally as talented. This is very true of LoUis CYfer (who styles their name in mixed case) in the role of Romeo. LoUis puts in so much energy and pure dedication to the role, they must be absolutely exhausted by the end of the show. Altogether this is a really strong cast of drag royalty who bring their characters to life while still keeping their individual drag personas.
Jesse Jones’ direction makes full use of Peter McKintosh’s very atmospheric set which, when combined with Beth Duke’s sound design and Rory Keaton’s lighting, create the perfect setting for the unfolding and entrancing story. Favourite bits for me? Well, there were many, but telling you about them would enter the realm of spoiler territory, so I’ll just mention one and that is the scene in Romeo’s room when he is writing his journal. This is a brilliantly played out scene with LoUis CYfer and Corrina Buchan taking a good old theatrical cliché and elevating it to something really special.
So, you may have guessed I enjoyed my visit to Death Drop Back in the Habit. Was there anything I wasn’t keen on? No, not really. Though I could point out that you address a cardinal as “your eminence” rather than “your excellency”, but honestly, I think the Catholic church has a lot more to worry about than a minor point of protocol.
Overall, Death Drop Back in the Habit really delivers on every level. Both Sam and I had a wonderful time in the Convent of St Babs, and although we are probably destined for hell for some of the things we laughed at, eternal damnation is definitely worth it in this case. After its stint in London, the show is going on a nationwide tour, so forget pantomime and take the family along to a ‘religious’ work this Christmas.
Review by Terry Eastham
Following three sold-out West End runs and a smash-hit UK tour, Death Drop is back! The drag murder mystery sensation is returning with a brand-new show: Death Drop: Back In The Habit. This laugh-a-minute show will feature some amazing casting: RuPaul USA Drag Legend Willam and RuPaul Drag Race UK and Drag Race Vs The World star Cheryl Hole, and a full drag supporting cast. Tickets are on sale from DeathDropPlay.com
Kicking off on 27 October in Bromley, this laugh-a-minute production – written by Rob Evans and directed once again by Jesse Jones – will then sashay into Dartford, London, Wycombe,
Cardiff, Crewe, Brighton, Blackpool, Sheffield, Leicester, Aberdeen, Nottingham, Liverpool, Glasgow, Manchester and Birmingham until 18 March 2023.
Willam and Cheryl Hole will be joined by Drag Race UK stars River Medway and Victoria Sponge. They will also be supported by Drag King LoUis CYfer and a full drag supporting cast.
Death Drop: Back In The Habit – UK Tour 2022/23 Forthcoming Dates)
8 – 20 November London: Garrick Theatre
22 – 26 November High Wycombe: Swan Theatre
29 November – 3 December Cardiff: New Theatre
6 – 10 December Crewe: Lyceum Theatre
13 December – 24 December Brighton: Theatre Royal
3 – 7 January Blackpool: Grand Theatre
10 – 14 January Sheffield: Lyceum Theatre
17 – 21 January Leicester: Curve Theatre
23 – 28 January Aberdeen: Her Majesty’s
31 January – 4 February Dublin: Gaiety Theatre
7-11 February Liverpool: Everyman Theatre
14 – 19 February Nottingham: Theatre Royal
23 – 25 February Glasgow: King’s Theatre
9 – 12 March Manchester: Opera House
13 – 18 March Birmingham: The Alexandra