Theatre returns @ The Garrick Theatre

Photo credit: The Gay Times

06.06.2021

My second show since return of the theatre, Death Drop, was a contrast in style and talent, to the first.

Death Drop is best described as a fun Dragatha Christie, starring Drag Race royalty: Latrice Royale and Willam. The show depicts a group of fictional z list celebrities, played by drag queens and kings, attending a ten year anniversary dinner for Charles and Diana (whom they assume will be attending), hosted by a woman they’ve mysteriously never heard of. However, not long into their evening the death of the first attendee raises suspicions about their invite to the house. As the plot probably suggests, the show is stupid at its core. It pokes fun at the inadequacies of theatre in all the ways we know how, from farcical multi-role play to comedic uses of special effects. If drag is your bag, and you don’t mind a lot of cheesy humour and average acting, then this is the show for you.

It goes without saying that unless you are a fan of Drag Race or drag more broadly, this show probably isn’t worth your time. However, I was pleasantly surprised that both Latrice Royale and Willam proved themselves as more than just names to pull in the crowds. Willam’s vocals were impressive; she felt fitting to the West-End stage, while Latrice had a good stage presence. These were not the only drag royals of the show, Myra Dubois, who played the show’s host, was a semi-finalist in Britain’s Got Talent 2020, while LoUis CYfer who played ‘Rich Whiteman’ was the first drag king to win Drag Idol UK. The cast were definitely the highlight of the show, as a group of drag performers at the top of their game.

Unsurprisingly, there wasn’t much I loved about the show outside of the drag. Contrary to The Gay Times suggestion that the writing was ‘exactly the tonic we needed’, I think the cast were let down by an overly simplistic script, which at times felt like it had just given up on finding ways to captivate the audience, or even be comedic. The best aspects of the script came in the form of lampooning patriarchy, which was held together brilliantly by the physical comedy of the drag kings. Elements of multi-role play were also used well, such as the triplets performed by the same actor, under the pretence that the ‘real’ actors had food poisoning. However, in places it all felt a bit GCSE drama, with tongue twisters like ‘Peter piper picked a pepper’ forming about five minutes of the second act, and jokes around delayed sound queues that became boring. Even the deaths became unimaginative, as at some point they switched from mystery black outs to an out of place ninja in lycra. In short, the comedy often lacked wit. I wasn’t expecting top quality theatre, I was just disappointed that I wasn’t proven wrong. I had hoped at the very least the set design would help explain the far from cheap ticket prices. In true murder mystery fashion, there was just one set throughout. Yet, it was predictable in style and appeared inexpensive compared with other West-End shows.

This is not to suggest that I didn’t find the show enjoyable, I did, however, I think it would’ve been best kept as a drag show, rather than theatre.

5/10

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie @The Apollo Theatre

23.05.19

Last Night I FINALLY got round to seeing Everybody’s Talking About Jamie starring the amazing Ru Paul’s, Bianca Del Rio and Faye Tozer from Steps. The show exceeded my already high expectations; an incredibly tight production with a very talented cast. If you are a theatre lover and haven’t yet seen it- stop reading now and go and do so. For those readers that have seen it, here are some thoughts I had…

The Set

Set is not always a feature of a production which I normally leave thinking about that however the set for ETAJ is flawless. I loved the unravelling kitchen which stays on stage at all times, the painfully accurate grim school toilet, the multi-use single door leading to abyss’ beyond (i.e. the club door, the classroom door, the stage door). The set was both simplistic yet advanced.

The Cast

Layton Williams was astounding as Jamie New, I couldn’t fault his performance which is no easy feat.

Roy Haylock/ Bianca Del Rio- It was a dream to see Bianca del rio (as Loco Chanel) on stage as any lover of Ru Paul could imagine. However, I think her lack of performance training showed slightly next to the cast- her projection wasn’t great at times and her performance as Hugo was seemingly lacking in confidence. Having said that, once she stepped into drag she was indistinguishable from Bianca Del Rio- witty, loud and high class. I think the short run for Hugo Taylor may have meant a lack of rehearsal time in comparison to the rest of the cast, which may account for the slight disparity. Regardless, overall I was delighted to see Roy Haylock in this.

Sejal Keshwala- The unsung hero of the piece as she played friend of Jamie New’s mum, Ray, perfectly. I’m not sure if it’s the incredible acting or the well- written character I fell in love with here but she brought the most emotion to the play, offering the completion of Jamie’s unconventional family. She brought both brilliant wit as well as poignant familiarity as she provided the most authentically northern character in the piece.

If I had to moan:

Honestly, I would’ve liked to have seen more drag. Jamie New was never once seen in drag only as a ‘boy in a dress’. I understand the time pressures of transforming someone into a drag queen, so I wasn’t expecting it to come early on. They tease at the idea with the clever use of the projector at the end of act one and I kept assuming their would be a grand unveiling towards the end, however the unveiling never came. Maybe this was due to wanting to stick to the original story (as we know the musical is based on the BBC documentary) but if thats the case who gives a damn about authenticity, let Jamie New come in FULL drag to the prom. Give the audience what they are after. Surely in a show all about an aspiring drag queen, it has to be done once right?

Similarly, Roy Haylock only appeared for a brief time in drag and spending 3/4 of her performance as Hugo rather than Loco Chanel. Give the audience what they want!

Aside from my drag hunger- Everybody’s Talking about Jamie is an incredible watch well worth the pricey ticket. Filled with a top class cast, cleverly executed design and genius script.

My rating 9/10. Shantay you Stay.