A whole host of new theatrical offerings are opening on the West End in December and amongst the more traditional fare we have the wonderfully unconventional Death Drop. Written by Holly Stars, who entertained us last year in an all-drag re-imagination of Cinderella, Death Drop promises to be a fiercely funny festive extravaganza – even camper than Christmas itself.
Alongside Courtney Act and Monét X Change, and writer Holly Stars, the cast also includes Vinegar Strokes, Kemah Bob, Louis Cyfer and Anna Phylactic. We caught up with Courtney and Monét ahead of the show’s opening and had a fabulously fun little chat…
How are rehearsals going so far?
Courtney: It’s quite exciting, depending on what your kink is, to be nasally penetrated twice a week for a COVID test. It’s not the PCR test so it doesn’t go up and scratch your brain, just up to where your eyeballs are and tickles about a bit. Still makes your eyes water though. It’s so exciting today, specifically – if you’d called me a few days ago I would have been much less excited because we were rehearsing in some dump in Kennington, but today we’ve just moved into the very prestigious Garrick Theatre in the West End. The theatre is gorgeous, I have Vanessa Williams’ former dressing room, so I’m super excited!
Can you tell us a bit about Death Drop?
Monét: A classic telling of a murder mystery but there are lots of bumps, turns and wigs that people will not be expecting! I play Summer Raines, a meteorologist – some call me a weather girl, but I am a meteorologist. I am an American living in London and I am here at this party. A few of the people here have pissed me off but even though they’re not on my good side, that doesn’t mean I’d kill them. Or maybe I do, who knows! Do you think I could play a murderer? Do you think I’m that evil?
Courtney: It’s extremely camp, fun and over the top! I wonder if there’s anything that’s quite this camp that’s been in the West End before and that’s a high bar. It’s set in 1991, on the 10th wedding anniversary of Charles and Diana, and Lady von Fistenburg is throwing a dinner. My character is a pop star who had a big hit in the ‘80s and hasn’t really had one since. She’s a bit of a name dropper and she’s always thinking that people are asking her to sing. We’re basically the same, except I never had a hit! We all get invited to this anniversary dinner for Charles and Diana’s wedding and slowly, one by one, everyone is murdered.
Courtney: It’s extremely camp, fun and over the top! I wonder if there’s anything that’s quite this camp that’s been in the West End before and that’s a high bar.
How did you come to be involved in the show?
Monét: Chris from the TuckShop messaged my management and we were talking about it, I was super interested because I love theatre. I went to school for opera performance, and I’ve done lots of theatre in the past in Portland and regional opera in New York, those sorts of things. I love the stage, I love live theatre. I jumped at the opportunity to do it on the West End and I think we’re going to be Olivier Award-winning, honey!
Courtney: This time last year Chris from TuckShop started talking to my manager about me being in a show, and at that time I was like, that’s over a year away, God knows what’s gonna be happening in the world. We could all be dead by then! I actually said those words. You can blame me. We got to see the set today on the stage, it’s a massive set, it’s a proper, actual, genuine, play. I probably sound more surprised than I should be! But there are actual wardrobe people, there are people to wash our tucking g-strings, because normally you don’t wash drag, you just burn it! This will be a nice change.
There are a lot of familiar faces that the audience will recognise – what’s the dynamic like working with all these talented queens?
Monét: Really? Like who? Courtney Act? Courtney is a familiar face? A household name? That’s funny, tell me another one! This is my first time working with both Vinegar and Courtney. All my interactions with Courtney, despite not working with her, have always been super positive. And Vinegar, I enjoyed her time on Drag Race and I’ve seen her in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie twice, she’s a really talented queen. I was social distancing for the beginning of the rehearsal process and the whole first week they were both checking in and seeing what I needed.
Courtney: It’s been interesting seeing everybody’s different processes and it’s really fun! I wish that I could give you some story about someone being a diva or any juicy Daily Mail-style gossip but it’s actually quite harmonious.
We were expecting something more outrageous…
Courtney: Yeah, well, Baga Chipz isn’t in this show.
This is not a traditional West End Christmas offering. What does it mean to be making your West End debut in a show which is geared towards the LGBTQ+ community?
Monét: I auditioned for Jamie but for some reason they thought that Bianca was more talented than me! This is my first major West End production and I’m just super excited. It’s at a beautiful theatre, a beautiful stage, the set is gorgeous and it’s a great cast. I really couldn’t ask for a better opportunity. It means a lot to be part of a show for queer people. Yes, it’s for everyone, but queer people, we want to be seen and we want to see ourselves on-stage, so I feel that doing a show for queer people and by queer people is super important and doing it on such a major platform on the West End is really great. Doing it in the UK, a queer production with people of colour, I’m very honoured that I was asked to be a part of it.
Courtney: I’ve been to the West End a bunch of times, I’ve seen heaps of shows here, but it never computed in my brain until today that this is the West End, this is the big time. This is the biggest time! This is as good as it gets for live theatre. And to be in an all-drag cast, with people of different genders, different sexualities, different skin tones, it’s exciting. Being in a West End show, you would think that you would be the solo drag performer in a production. But this is like a drag juggernaut that has just marched into town and, yeah, we’re all in drag, and there’s something really cool about that.
It’s a significant moment to have a show like this in a theatre like the Garrick…
Monét: I know, it’s a sign of the times! People are realising that either you get with it or you just won’t be a part of everything. I think this will allow people to open their eyes and see that drag is not just this thing that needs to be in the club, that cannot be allowed on bigger platforms. RuPaul famously said that drag won’t be mainstream. I respect his opinion and what he thinks but I just think that a lot of us are proving differently. I think it’s only a matter of time until you see queens being nominated for and winning Tonys and Emmys and Oliviers and Grammys.
Monét: RuPaul famously said that drag won’t be mainstream. I respect his opinion and what he thinks but I just think that a lot of us are proving differently.
We’d absolutely love to see it. Aside from this show – how have you both been getting on this year?
Courtney: I was meant to get to Los Angeles in March and start writing a memoir, which I did do, but the global pandemic hadn’t been a thing yet. I was like, am I going to have enough time? I’ve got all these other commitments! I got to LA on the first day of the lockdown and suddenly my schedule was cleared. I had the last nine months of nothingness to focus and to write a memoir and just spend days on end locked inside, it’s actually been a blessing in disguise. You’ve got to find the silver linings. Most of the things about the pandemic are not great, but I do think the way that we’ve all been forced to stop, I think there’s going to be a recalibration. People are thinking about what their priorities are. Everybody’s going to be looking at stuff differently because we’ve had a moment to stop and breathe.
Monét: I think one thing that I’m really grateful for is that throughout the pandemic I’m still able to do my talk show. The X Change Rate is something that I’m super proud of and it’s something that’s always been a dream of mine, to have a talk show, or as you guys say here a chat show, and it’s something that I really enjoy doing. Sibling Rivalry that I do with Bob, our podcast, has become so major and to see people really appreciating us doing that, and really enjoying the content that we’re putting out means a lot to me. We speak so truthfully and honestly on the podcast and people are really enjoying that, and I like that it’s been able to get people through quarantine.
It’s not going to be a traditional Christmas but do you have any fun plans for your time in London, or anything that you’d like to do?
Monét: I’m bummed at COVID for many reasons but this is gonna be my first British Christmas and I’ve heard so many amazing stories about British customs and things that you guys do and how festive the city gets and I’m sad I’m not gonna get to experience all that. Hopefully I’ll get to have Boxing Day, I don’t know if COVID’s going to mess up Boxing Day. I don’t know what Boxing Day is! But I’m excited to have that the day after Christmas.
Courtney: I’ve had a few Christmases here actually. I went to Winter Wonderland last year on a date – it was a really horrible place for a date, it was so busy, sitting there sipping mulled wine out of a paper cup, trying not to be bumped by some screaming child. It was a cute-in-theory date and I really saw where he was going, and I still put out, so it can’t have been that bad. I’m hoping that there’s a big cast Christmas. There’s a dinner in the show, I don’t know whether I’m giving anything away, but there are some very specific foods which can all be purchased at your local Iceland… maybe we should have a Christmas dinner where we’re drinking Lambrini and eating Findus Crispy Pancakes, in the great Christmas tradition!
Death Drop plays at London’s Garrick Theatre until 17 January 2021. More information can be found here.