DIVA caught up with co-creator and drag king, Riss Obolensky, ahead of the upcoming run


The drag-clown one-man show, Healing King Herod, is brought to audiences by the unstoppable force that is Riss Obolensky and co-creator/director Eloïse Poulton. Pure silliness, wit and wisdom ooze from their performance that commands the theatre absolutely.  

Starting the show in ancient Judea with a dark and disturbing monologue from King Herod on the precipice of murder, the performance traverses time and space to an interactive group therapy session led by a transformed version of the king, The Healer. What follows is pure genius. TED Talk parodies, pyramid schemes, interactive audience singing sessions and lip syncs, the side-splitting laughs are unrelenting. Yet, underneath all the hilarity, lies a meaningful conversation about masculinity, power and trauma. 

On the origins of the show Riss told DIVA: “It all began looking at a picture of myself as a child dressed as King Herod, when I was six years old. That was the first time I was on stage and the amount of power I felt as a kid dressed as a man who was a king was crazy. I rushed home that evening and drew on a beard with eyeliner, I was so annoyed that I couldn’t go into school with it!”

For Riss performing as a drag king was an important medium for the show to be told through: “Drag has the ability to highlight and subvert power. Being a drag King Herod is important because drag kings are inherently political. It is to do with embodying associated tropes of masculinity and exploring these in nuanced ways.” 

While the show masquerades itself in ridiculousness, from The Healer rubbing jam all over himself to prancing around the theatre in an adult nappy, at its heart are truths direct from Riss’ own experience of trauma. Going into the London Vault Festival run they hope to “dig even deeper into the tense and difficult themes that it explores.”

“It feels edgy and scary but important … King Herod’s actions are pure evil so making the show can feel like an uncomfortable, controversial thing.” 

“But”, they continue, “ I only want to create work that starts conversations and gets people disagreeing with eachother.”

Healing King Herod is next on in London 23-26 February at the iconic Vault Festival, the UK’s leading independent showcase of live performance and artistic talent. Get your tickets now if you don’t want to miss the most stupidly silly and subversive show you’ll see this year.

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