Let it be known: Kate Butch and Crudi Dench are fabulous performers. Entering the venue, audience members are immersed in the travel experience with fake metal detectors and the timeless question of “chicken or beef?” The tone of silliness is set, and humour levels only climb higher, with some attendees truly in hysterics. If ridiculousness is your thing, this is a masterclass; from opening the overhead locker “to show how good I am at miming”, to an emotional support lasagne, to a puppet vampire slayer – what’s not to love?
The show’s plot is remarkably cohesive: two queens are off to represent Britain in Eurovision, and will be staying in Dracula’s Transylvanian Airbnb. Butch enters a romantic tryst with the brooding Count, and it is Crudi’s job as a fledgling vampire slayer to save the unwitting Eurovision attendees. Props and costume are wonderfully done, with Kate Butch transforming from a jet-setter to a gothic empress; Crudi Dench being elevated to vampire slayer; as well as use of puppets, guns, and costume for audience participants. Lighting is used imaginatively, from red to indicate evil to a blue-light to run a hygiene check on the hotel room. The jokes and their execution are genius, with dance numbers and physical comedy to boot. Early plot points that seem throwaway are built on and referenced later, resulting in a very strong and well-developed script.
I have never seen audience interaction executed as this show does. Those who were brave enough to sit in the front row were transformed into Eurovision critics and even Dracula himself, using silly hats and a vampire cape. A voice from above announces “I, Dracula, the man in the white shirt with a heart on it, will now stand up” – I cannot believe how well this worked, and the payoff in laughter was immense. Energy levels stay high throughout, and the simple staging of two panels and some chairs is used to its maximum potential, for instance making Dracula sit in a tiny chair next to the tall drag queens: every opportunity for a laugh is successfully snapped up. Even their slip-ups were handled brilliantly. If either queen tripped on a line or their heels it was built into a bigger moment of comedy, demonstrating confidence and professionalism.
This is possibly the best show I have seen at VAULT festival, and I was still stifling snort-laughs on the bus home. These two queens work seamlessly as a duo and had incredible chemistry with the audience. There are truly too many brilliant moments to list, with the concept of Eurovision vampires being cleverly developed using dazzling wit. The only fault? It’s completely unbelievable that Britain could ever win Eurovision! Bring all your friends, but also bring a wooden stake and some garlic.
Story by: Matthew Stallworthy and Eleanor Mason
Writing by: Matthew Stallworthy, Eleanor Mason and Molly Parker
Produced by: Lucia Rimini on behalf of Haus of Dench
Drag Queens vs Vampires played as part of VAULT Festival 2023 and has completed its current run. The show will also be performing at Brighton Fringe on 6 and 7 May. Further information can be found on the company’s website here.