Adelaide Fringe

Fringe Review: Iconic: A Brief History of Drag

When you call your drag show “iconic”, not only do you create high expectations in your audience; you also throw down a gauntlet. There’s an implicit challenge. Drag as a genre has a long, proud history;

Presented by Joe C. Brown
Reviewed 6th March, 2018

When you call your drag show “iconic”, not only do you create high expectations in your audience; you also throw down a gauntlet. There’s an implicit challenge. Drag as a genre has a long, proud history; its vigilant gatekeepers will soon let you know if you fail to observe its shibboleths.

Velma Celli (a transmogrified Ian Stroughair) meets these criteria and frequently excels, in this beautifully balanced, entertaining and intelligent show. Every expected element of drag is present and lovingly acknowledged by this accomplished English performer.

Heralded by theatrical fog, pink stage lights and superb keyboard accompanist Joe Louis Robinson, Velma enters in a sequinned black and gold lace-up bustier, black tulle tutu, chunky silver platform shoes and a fetching modified mohawk hairstyle. Intricately designed makeup amplifies each facial expression. She looks seven feet tall – glamorous and terrifying.

So, visual appearance gets a big tick. But so do vocal skills (what? no lip-synch??), theatrical flair, an actor’s easy command of her audience, and a smart playlist of songs cleverly sequenced to both entertain and tell the story. There’s humour with edge and affectionate bite, and the ability to send herself up rotten, without which no self-respecting drag queen should ever don a frock.

Elements of the history of drag are here, as promised in the title, including the first decisive blow of a black drag queen’s stiletto to the head of a New York cop at Stonewall. Velma’s spoken material is carefully planned and expertly delivered; the impetus never sags. Thorough preparation and careful direction are evident. However, a short power cut, which removed both lights and sound, proved Velma’s command of stagecraft. She simply kept chatting amusingly with her audience – in the dark – about a power cut during her last show in Tanzania. She held the audience through clear vocal strength and sheer force of persona.  Evident performance skills – check.

Pianist Joe Louis Robinson contributes exquisitely judged accompaniment, solid backing vocals, and the sort of musicianship every singer loves to work with.

The playlist includes songs from Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Kinky Boots, Taboo, Rent, Priscilla and Rocky Horror.  Velma’s credentials (not the euphemistic ones) are solid West End musical theatre training and experience. Vocally, she’s a flexible baritenor with good falsetto access and pleasant resonance.

The medley of Diva songs devoted to drag artists who still lip-synch showcases the accuracy of her vicious acid-queen mimicry skills – her Britney is perfect, reinforcing my every prejudice.

Velma is a star.

Reviewed by Pat. H. Wilson

Rating out of 5:  5 stars

Venue:  Gluttony – Parasol Lounge
Season:  6th – 17th March, 2018
Duration:  60 minutes
Tickets:  Full Price: $26:50 Concession: $21:50
Bookings: https://adelaidefringe.com.au/fringetix/iconic-a-brief-history-of-drag-af2018

https://www.adelaidefringe.com.au
https://iconicdrag.com/

 

 

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