INTERVIEW: Ian Stroughair has Tea With Wilma chatting about his new show ICONIC – A Brief History Of Drag
You have performed in some amazing shows so far in your career. What have been some of your highlights?
That’s a hard one.
You know what I have been so fortunate to work on some the most successful shows of all time.
CATS was always my dream show as a kid so I must say that being cast in that show 13 years ago was a dream come true.
As an adult I alway wanted to be in RENT so playing Angel on the 20th anniversary tour along side some of the most talented legends in UK musical theatre was a huge buzz.
You are well known on the cabaret scene for your alter-ego drag act Velma Celli. When did you start performing that character and how did it all come about?
Around 7 years ago. When I was in CHICAGO in the West End I had had a great run of working consistently for a few years and I decided a break from commercial theatre is was what was needed to challenge myself. So I took those skills I had learned at training and working and formed this all singing all dancing alter ego to keep the wolf from the door whilst I decided what my next move was. The rest is HERstory, she became a huge success!
Tell me about your new show ‘Iconic – A Brief History Of Drag’ which is playing at the St James Theatre on 4/5 November 2016. What is it all about and what can people expect if they come to see the show?
I decide to write Iconic A Brief History Of Drag because I have played quite a few “drag roles” in theatre film and also TV now and of course my Velma Celli cabaret show which has played various venues across the globe including a two year residency at the Hippodrome Casino. Also the Charing Cross Theatre, 54 Below in New York and many others. Velma has appeared as herself on EASTENDERS, in Nebraska opposite Danny Dyer and even fronted this McDonads #weareawake commercial. She has been around.
Because of this I constantly get asked by fans to sing those iconic drag songs we all know and love, those you immediately think of when you think a drag in a musical or popular culture.
I had resisted performing the obvious drag songs for years because I like to give my audience something fresh and different that you wouldn’t expect a drag artists to do but after years of requests to perform those fabulous iconic cross dressing numbers I thought enough is enough. So I wrote the show to in a way pull off the bandage and at the same time give a feast of a revue!
In short, Iconic is celebration of the most iconic moments in theatre and popular culture that have influenced me in creating my drag personality. Its jam packed with a eclectic mix of pop, rock and musical theatre tied together by anecdotes from my drag bible!
Who are your biggest inspirations in the theatre industry and why?
There are too many to pick any out but this is what inspires me….. Anyone who continues to train, work on their craft whilst working. Commits 100% to the job and is humble. People who take risks and do something different to stay creatively present and picks themselves up and carries on during the dry spots. You are ALL inspiring to me.
If you were going to get a new pet and had to give it a musical theatre character name, what would you go for?
GREAT question Wilms. I LOVE dogs so I would probably go to Toto if the dog appeared to be homosexual.
Apart from acting, what is your biggest passion?
Can I have two? Travelling and cooking! Cooking in what I am REALLY good at. I blag singing, dancing and acting ha!
We are living in a time where films are often being turned into stage plays and musicals. If you had to choose one, what film would you like to see adapted to the stage?
It would HAVE to be Too Wong Fu, thanks for everything Julie Newmar. Patrick Swayze should have won an Oscar for that role.
If you won the lottery and could stage one theatre show of your choice, what would you choose and who would be your dream cast?
THATS SO HARD! I would probably go for something like Hedwig. I think we all know who I would cast… ME! Ha. I would love to see Louise Dearman play opposite me in man drag! That would be VERY cool!
Why do you think people should come and see Iconic – A Brief History Of Drag at the St James Theatre on 4/5 November?
Because I SAID so! You know what, ICONIC has such a wide repertoire of music styles and there is something for everyone. It’s going to be rather special and I am THRILLED to be reunited with my creative husband Joe Louis Robinson and two very special talented ladies Eliza Jackson and Georgi Motram.
Thanks for having Tea With Wilma
See ICONIC – A Brief History Of Drag at the St James Studio on 4 and 5 November 2016