Murder - it's such a drag darling ...
I should probably start this review with a disclaimer: I love drag, I love murder mysteries and I love choose your own adventure style books (well, I did when I was 9, and my maturity levels aren't much higher now).
So given the latest show from Les Femmes - Drop Dead Gorgeous! A Drag Murder Miss-tery - takes all those things, throws in a whole load of sequins, amazing hair and fantastic legs, and serves it up with some original songs and a guest local actor, I was confident I was in for a great night before I even got to 4th Wall Theatre for the opening night.
4th Wall Theatre is the perfect venue for this show, with the intimate table style seating meaning every audience member has the perfect view at all times. It's also suited to the audience participation that is the bread and butter of most drag shows, and while the audience participation in this show is gentler than you might find in many drag cabarets, with audience members asked to read out clues and ask questions rather than appear on stage, it still adds to the fun of the live theatre show.
The premise is reasonably straightforward. The three stars of Les Femmes, Miss Givings, Miss Manage and Miss Demeanour are competing for the crown of Miss Mature Tween Queen.
As the show starts, we learn a fourth competitor is out of the competition - and life itself - meaning a police investigation is needed. A detective arrives, seemingly new to the job - perhaps due to the fact the role is played by a different guest actor each night and they are only given the first page of the script to start with.
The role on opening night was played superbly by Sunita Torrance, who brought plenty of energy, and confusion, to the stage with her. She got the audience onside very quickly, with plenty of witty asides and an attitude of "what the heck is going on here". (Okay, she didn't say heck, she might have used slightly stronger language, but this paper is G rated).
To further mix things up, and add to the drama, while the three queens have the luxury of having seen the script before, what they don't know, and can't control, is which of the four case files the audience will decide upon on the night. Each case file takes the show in a slightly different direction making for plenty of great wisecracks and oneliners from all on stage at times.
As the detective attempts to solve the case, the queens are still trying to win the crown, and the show takes the audience along on both storylines, with beauty pageant scenes (expect plenty of "world peace" and posing) interrupting the detective's attempts at interrogations and crime-solving.
While most drag artists skilfully lip-synch to musical numbers, the talented trio that make up Les Femmes are all trained in musical theatre and it shows, as they sing and dance their way through the show.
While drag can be all about exaggeration, from the eyebrows to the height of the heels, the actual characters we see on stage are incredibly nuanced and well thought out. For all the characters' seeming dimwittedness and vanity, the audience is given the opportunity to really connect with each of the queens thanks to a well-written script that offers well-rounded and fleshed out (fake boobs aside) characters you will fall in love with.
The show may be about a crime, but actually the only crime committed on the 4th Wall Stage is the shortness of this season.
• Drop Dead Gorgeous! A Drag Miss-tery plays at 4th wall Theatre until May 8. Tickets available from 4th Wall Theatre.