Velma Celli’s knows why you need to remember history.
An established Drag Artist and West End Performer, Velma Celli (aka Ian Stroughair) got the inspiration for her show A Brief History of Drag when asking fans what they wanted to hear in her shows.
Opening in Melbourne for two nights, the 18 & 19 January, she quickly went from hating to loving the old songs. “I realised that these songs were the soundtrack to the history of the LGBTQI community - not dissimilar to that of an anthem played at a football game. These songs at sporting events bring unity, a sense of community and when sang in gospel chorus it invoke strength and positivity.”
Realising the community loved the songs because of the unity they brought, Velma says writing the show has completely changed the way she feels about these songs forever.
“Icons of drag, whether it be in film, music, popular culture or even politics have been our trailblazers for an age, the drag queens always on the front line representing us and these songs - I have now learnt to adore - are the very heartbeat and soundtrack to a message.”
Aware of the work that came before the LGBTQI success of today, Velma knows well of what came before this. “To appreciate what we have now, we have to know our past and pay our respects to those that fought for us. People quite literally died for our rights... and to look back and learn from our mistakes is very important too.”
A show-stopping cabaret show, it has enjoyed a successful UK tour and was a smash hit at last year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe Festival. The show itself gives some of the best moments in drag history including music, pop culture, film and theatre, and has music from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Kinky Boots, David Bowie, RuPaul and more.
“Cabaret is a safe space for both the artists and the audience, and it can, and often should be, a conversation. Also, being in drag almost gives me licence to really go places I would be scared to do as a man. It's an armour,” says Velma.
Excited about the show’s message, Velma feels it is still important the community knows about the political decisions that affect the gay community. “It is important we don’t ignore it and try to get involved. YES, we have rights now - but we are not equal to straight folk, far from it in many ways, so being aware of what's happening and pushing forward is still so important.”
Determining to celebrate this history in style, Velma says the show gives the audience a chance to reflect how far it has come. “It's a truly fabulous show with so many levels. Hilarious one second and heartbreaking the next.”
See ‘Velma Celli’s - A Brief History of Drag’ at Chapel Off Chapel this January!
Location: Chapel Off Chapel, Melbourne
Dates: 18th and 19th January
Times: Varies – see website for details