ICONIC – A Brief History of Drag

History lessons have never been so uplifting

cabaret review | Read in About 1 minute
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ICONIC A Brief History of Drag
Published 11 Mar 2018

Ian Stroughair, as Velma Celli, treats a sparsely populated Parasol Lounge tent with the appropriate level of contempt for a performer who cut their teeth on West End full houses. Donning jet black sequin bustier and tutu, the mohawked Celli strides into view, her gaze amplified by electric orange eyeliner.

The premise of ICONIC seems, at first glance, an easy excuse to bust out drag’s greatest hits. But Celli makes it so much more, fleshing out a powerful musical exhibition with tales of the personal and historical context: from the Stonewall riots to the social boundaries shattered by David Bowie’s noncomformative dress sense, lending extra significance to the crescendo of Starman.

Celli's own baritenor flavours are exquisite, as is her series of merciless vocal mimicry of divas, including a rasping Britney Spears and a warbling Cher. The star's icy command of the audience is nicely defrosted by occasional warm glances to keyboardist Joe Lou Robinson, who keeps up with Celli with great proficiency.

Together they deliver a history lesson both enlightening and enlivening, and not to be missed by students of drag.