Dragprov at VAULT Festival
Updated: Feb 18, 2020
What is it?
Drag King Christian Adore and Queen Eaton Messe, bring their double act to the VAULT Festival for an hour long show of improv, music and musical improv.
What is it about?
I'm still not totally sure. The show itself is described as a 'revue' and this is somewhat apt, with no narrative but a loose theme of 'Valentine's Day' connecting a series of songs, sketches and audience interactions. The show begins with Christian and Eaton explaining the theme of the show and talking to each other for a while. The audience seems eager to be on their side, but it quickly becomes clear that these unscripted moments aren't going to be very funny or slick; Christian and Eaton asking the audience to cheer if they were in a relationship, then to cheer if they were with that person tonight, then to cheer if they were in a relationship but not with their partner tonight, then to cheer if they were single and so on. When it becomes obvious that this isn't leading to anywhere in particular, a general sense of unease begins to emerge. Eventually, the audience is asked to shout out some positives about being single, with Adore and Messe using the answers to improvise a song, accompanied by a brilliant live pianist at the corner of the stage. The song they produce is impressive; most of the lyrics seem effortless and polished, and every rhyme gets a cheer from the audience, with some surprisingly good jokes being created in real time. It is just a shame there is so much fluff and filler before getting to the entertainment, because this is what really works.
How Did It Make Me Feel?
The dynamic between the performers is confusing and slightly off-putting; Christian Adore spending most of the show interrupting Eaton Messe and speaking over her, a shame because when she does get a chance to speak she is brilliant. Hilarious, quick and warm; the audience immediately connect with her and whichever character she takes on, with someone shouting out 'go on Ian!' at one of her character's climatic moments. More skits follow, with Eaton and Christian improvising another song using inspiration from a couple in the audience's relationship. These short mini-skits seemed to be warm up for the last half of the show, an improvised rom-com musical set inside a prison (an audience suggestion). There are some moments of brilliance; Eaton Messe's climactic song 'I'll commit to me' is stupefyingly wonderful, and would hold up against any real West-End musical number, and the audience can't get enough of her hilarious roster of characters and whip-smart one liners.
However, a lot of it didn't work. The performers seem somewhat lost and confused about what they are doing and why, but more crucially the show’s structure and form begin to completely disintegrate. In moments it turns from an improv comedy show to something else entirely, with some songs becoming bizarrely serious musical theatre numbers. The audience sit in confused silence as Christian Adore sings earnestly about how much he wished to be on the other side of his jail cell walls. It seems for a moment he has forgotten what show he is actually in, and what the audience are there for.
In terms of entertainment per minute, this could have easily been a 30 minute show. It feels very much like a work in progress. When performers don’t have a clear idea of what they’re doing, it’s difficult for the audience to trust them and relax into the show. Unless they’re drunk, which at 10pm on Valentine’s day, certainly helped.
Dragprov is playing in the Crypt, VAULT Festival, until the 21st February 2020.
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