In my time, I’ve seen more drag queens than I care to remember. From Danny La Rue at the Palladium to Naughty Nikki down the local pub. There is usually something to entertain, even if it’s the way home.
However absorbed we are with the performance I would bet we never give a second thought to the artist under the slap, we just want to be entertained. In their play “Suitcase under the stairs” Lewis Pickles and Lauren Tranter take us quite literally behind the scenes and shows us the performer inside.
Like drag queens, ventriloquists also create a second persona for themselves and put it in a suitcase after the performance. Sometimes though, the alter ego dominates Anthony Hopkins covered similar ground in the movie “Magic”. Here, the drag queen takes over the performer.
In this performance piece, Lewis is a mass of confusion about how his drag persona can be so “out there”, but he can’t. At one point he tells us “I don’t always know how to talk without Rose”. As the play progresses Rose gets put in the suitcase and Lewis emerges with all his insecurities. That gradual transformation is touchingly achieved and the writer and performer take us convincingly on that journey.
What hampers the piece is that the performance takes place in a toilet which ironically is the usual dressing room of the drag performer. Using a single camera, most of the action takes place on the floor or sitting on the toilet. As a viewer, I found this restrictive. I longed to follow on the couple of occasions the performer stood up. That and playing with the wig as Rose was distracting. I would suggest a direct look to the camera (or audience in a theatre setting) and spitting a “Rose type put down” which would also allow an additional strand of quick humour.
Those reservations aside, I enjoyed this performance. It has an honesty in storytelling and performance. There were surely budget restraints but it is to the credit of the production I am only thinking about them as I write these notes. I would love to see it again played live and perhaps slightly expanded by the addition of some Rose material. The play was tightly directed by Lauren Tranter. I congratulate “Wipe your feet Theatre” on their debut production and I urge you to sign up for this online production until 12th February at Suitcase Under the Stairs – Online – Greenwich Theatre. https://greenwichtheatre.org.uk/events/suitcase-under-the-stairs-online/
Reviewer: Philip Edwards
Reviewed: 12th February 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★