Home » Reviews » Alternative » Iconic: A Brief History of Drag, Underbelly – Review
Credit: Scott Rylander 2017
Credit: Scott Rylander 2017

Iconic: A Brief History of Drag, Underbelly – Review

Pros: A vibrant cabaret with big personalities and even bigger voices.

Cons: Despite the promising surtitle, there’s little actual history to this show; a bit more depth would not have gone amiss.

Pros: A vibrant cabaret with big personalities and even bigger voices. Cons: Despite the promising surtitle, there’s little actual history to this show; a bit more depth would not have gone amiss. When you venture into the Underbelly, you can usually be sure of one thing: it’s not going to be a boring evening. Playing for one night only, Iconic: A Brief History of Drag is no exception to that rule. Ian Stroughair, in his alter ego of the spectacular Velma Celli, takes the audience on a whirlwind tour around some of the most recognisable moments in the history…

Summary

Rating

Excellent

A mad dash through some of pop culture’s most iconic Drag moments.

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When you venture into the Underbelly, you can usually be sure of one thing: it’s not going to be a boring evening. Playing for one night only, Iconic: A Brief History of Drag is no exception to that rule. Ian Stroughair, in his alter ego of the spectacular Velma Celli, takes the audience on a whirlwind tour around some of the most recognisable moments in the history of Drag. From Freddie Mercury’s black leather skirt and fishnet stockings in I Want to Break Free, to Rocky Horror’s Doctor Frank N. Furter, Iconic features powerful vocal performances, lots of cheeky fun, and a couple of surprisingly moving moments. Oh, and audience participation of course.

From her entrance into The Spiegeltent right down to the very last bow, Velma has the audience wrapped around her little finger. Never before have I been part of a crowd that responded quite so enthusiastically to being told to ‘click along, you lazy bitches’. Velma is joined on stage for duets by special guests, Kerry Ellis and Jessie Wallace, both attired in classy men’s wear and a stick-on moustache. Each of the ladies join Velma in a duet, Ellis on I’ll Cover You from Rent, and Wallace on David Bowie’s Starman, .

They are two gorgeous performances, although Velma certainly doesn’t need the added star power to command our attention. With her impressive vocal range and compelling stage presence, each song is a delight. A particular highlight is the pop star-impersonation-mega mix, featuring the likes of Anastacia, Tina Turner and an uncannily spot-on Shakira. Recurring attempts to get the audience to do a sort of surround sound whisper every time Velma whips out her ‘Tranny Bible’ are slightly less successful, although I’m proud to say we had improved a lot by the end of the evening.

All the hilarity aside, there are some genuinely touching moments to the show, like Velma’s explanation of the Stonewall riots (‘for the not gays in the audience’) or her tribute to David Bowie. An actual history of Drag this show is not; at a good 75 minutes it’s too short for that, and its arrangement too haphazard. But as an entertaining night out, it’s a resounding success.

Created and Performed By: Ian Stroughair
Producer: Joe C. Brown
Booking Information: This show has now completed its run.

About Eva de Valk

Eva de Valk
Eva moved to London to study the relationship between performance and the city. She likes most kinds of theatre, especially when it involves 1) animals, 2) audience participation and/or 3) a revolving stage. Seventies Andrew Lloyd Webber holds a special place in her heart, which she makes up for by being able to talk pretentiously about Shakespeare. When she grows up she wants to be either a Jedi or Mark Gatiss.