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Live / stage review

"Brimming with a copious dose of camp": Death Drop: Back in the Habit

What happens when you put RuPaul's Drag Race stars in a camp horror parody of the Sound of Music and Sister Act? Paul Szabo went to the Lyceum to find out. 

A drag queen on a smoky stage

Cheryl Hole in Death Drop: Back in the Habit

Matt Crockett

There is something strange stirring in the bowels of the convent of St Bab’s, where ghostly goings on, unquiet spirits of playful children and a rather dubious religious artefact all come under investigation by Father Alfie Romeo as he tries to solve the mystery of the convent, stop a series of demonic attacks and save the world from evil in this drag comedy, which is brimming with a copious dose of camp.

Drag has certainly found its way back into the mainstream over the last few years and the show boasts a variety of Drag Race alumni, which proves to be one of the main draws to this production. Victoria Scone, River Medway, Cheryl Hole and Kitty Scott-Claus are ably assisted by award winning drag king LoUis CYfer in a show that wears its influences on its sleeve. There is an overarching and frequently tongue-in-cheek homage to the horror genre with references to The Exorcist, IT, Alien, and countless zombie movies and ghost stories; all of which are juxtaposed with parodies of Sister Act and The Sound of Music, in a romp that is loud, crude and manic.

The production values are as basic as most of the humour – something alluded to in a number of the jokes – although the overall presentation is lifted by a well-conceived set and lighting design.

A drag king dressed as a priest

LoUis CYfer in Death Drop: Back in the Habit

Matt Crockett

In the small cast, LoUis CYfer stood out with a terrific, wide-eyed and suitably over-the-top performance as Father Alfie Romeo, lampooning those typically villainous Hammer Horror clergyman that formed such a staple of that particular horror franchise. Victoria Scone followed closely behind with her turn as the Mother Superior, carrying much of the script and plot and filling the stage with her bubbly personality and effortlessly holding the audience’s attention. The writing left the other queens without a great deal to do, which was a shame as they rarely got the chance to shine, but each had a few moments to come into their own and it was good fun seeing them in their element.

It was also a pleasure to see the broad spectrum of LGBTQ + representation both on stage and in the audience.

The jokes are pretty much as near to the knuckle as you would expect, and you will need a broad mind and an even broader sense of humour as the script flitted between innuendo, crude and crass. There is plenty of physical comedy and slapstick thrown in, along with a handful of topical political gags and plenty of breaking of the fourth wall with a knowing wink to the audience. A version of My Favourite Things re-written to avoid copyright infringement is a delight and there are plenty of laugh out loud moments, especially during the second act.

Writing wise, this show is not the best. The plot is paper thin, the narrative is patchy and uneven, the comedy was fairly hit and miss and at times it felt like an overly long Ru Paul’s Acting Challenge. But what the show does have is an abundance of campy horror, sufficient humour to entertain and engage and it is rough enough around the edges to allow the cast to playfully bounce off of each as they depart from the script. That said, it’s not the writing that you come to see this show for, it’s the good-humoured profanity, high camp and genuine lack of subtlety that makes it a hit with the audience.

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Death Drop: Back in the Habit was at Sheffield Lyceum Theatre until Saturday 14 January 2023. Details of the theatre’s accessibility policy can be found here.

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