Brilliant, emotive, inspiring, challenging, captivating and touching.
Iconic – A Brief History of Drag has by far been my favourite show I’ve seen at this year’s Adelaide Fringe.
Velma Celli, UK’s queen of live vocal drag took us on a tour through the ages and stages of drag history, culture and drag as a movement. Velma’s voice truly stole the show with big belting choruses and powerfully sensitive harmonies.
Velma entered the stage full of contagious energy as she playfully teased her audience (mainly with insults). She embodied all that is cabaret culture, giving us big showgirl kicks and a flair for the theatre.
Velma often referred to her Drag Bible *audience gasps* delivering some of the greatest (and most iconic) drag quotes across the ages, including one from our very own Dame Edna:
“Sex is the most beautiful thing that can take place between a happily married man and his secretary”.
Later in the show Velma admitted to what’s important in drag: lip syncing to the Divas!
At this moment I was quite surprised such an elegant and beautiful signer would transition into some serious air guitar! The crowd was delighted when Velma started to belt out impersonations of our favourite divas. From Britney Spears’ nasally pitch to Cher’s deep husk, this part of the show had us all in stitches!
Iconic – A Brief History of Drag however, has so much more to offer than just gags. As we travelled through time with some of our favourites like Boy George, songs from RENT, Queen, Priscilla and Tim Curry in Rocky Horror Picture Show (who doesn’t love a Rocky Horror sing-a-long)? Velma revealed the meaning of the lyrics and often the truth and vulnerability of the people behind the songs. Velma was able to do this through stripped-back renditions of songs like Queen’s Break Free which focused so eloquently on the lyrics.
These were the songs that captured moments in time and contributed to the evolution of the LGBTIQ+ movement being where it is today (who could forget Freddy Mercury’s moustache and black leather mini-skirt in Break Free).
In light of people who had worked toward making the world a better place for the LGBTIQ+ community (and just a better place in general) we paid tribute to David Bowie as we all joined together to sing Star Man. I began to tear-up and I don’t think I was the only one.
Velma Celli ended the show with an impassioned speech about a visit to New York and The Stone Wall Riots; an iconic moment in history. Velma told us about the courageous Drag Queen who walked up face-to-face and toe-to-toe with the police, striking him with a giant stiletto. Velma encapsulated her bravery and this iconic moment into song, ending with a bare bones version of Gloria Gaynor’s I Am What I Am. Not a dry seat in the house.
As we left the Parasol Lounge you could hear the murmured reviews from the crowd all saying the same thing, “This show is FANTASTIC”!
Please go and see this show. I can’t recommend it highly enough. I’d give it more than 5 stars if I could!
Review by Daisy Sumersford