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Q&A/The Festival Sessions/Cabaret

Diving into the divas

15 January 2020

UK drag queen Velma Celli is obsessed with divas and in her latest show, Me & My Divas, she celebrates the big names, from Judy Garland to Jessie J… all live, no lip-synching. Seesaw caught up with Velma’s alter ego, Ian Stroughair, to find out more.

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Seesaw: Ian, tell us about your career path to date.
Ian Stroughair:
I have been very fortunate to work in the world of musical theatre, TV and cabaret for the last 22 years, as a singer, dancer and actor. I have appeared in hit West End shows Cats, Fame, Rent and Chicago, in legendary soap Eastenders (as myself), and I have toured the world with my show A Brief History of Drag.

Ian Stroughair

S: Tell us about your 2020 Fringe World show, Me & My Divas!
IS:
My new show “Me and My Divas” will premiere in Perth at Fringe World. It is an overindulgent diva fest celebrating the songs and behaviour of all of your favourite divas including Celine, Mariah, Whitney, Aretha, Cher, Britney (maybe not!) and many more. No diva is safe, no riff I won’t sing – so strap yourself in and let the belt-off begin. Expect high belting, impressions and lots of laughs.

S: What differentiates Me & My Divas from the 700 or so other shows on offer?
IS:
Firstly it’s live. No lip syncing here. By tradition the Queens lip-sync and I love that to an extent, but my thing is rock and it is ALL LIVE BABY.

S: Who will enjoy Me & My Divas?
IS:
It will appeal to all generations from the Judy Garland to the Mariah fans, Whitney to Jessie J, and everyone in between.

S: What inspired you to make this show?
IS:
I am obsessed with the Divas – especially the VH1 Divas Live era. True talent and diva behaviour gives me joy. Not in real life, nobody likes a “difficult Debbie”, but watching from the sidelines it’s super fun. BLUE M&M’s ONLY, BITCH!

S: Tell us about the creative/rehearsal process for Me & My Divas.
IS:
I write whenever it comes to me and it’s spread out over, well, however long I have got. This time, a few hours a week for two months but more frequent now, plus I am running and drilling material now we are getting closer to opening night. Now, I’ll run the musical numbers daily to get my stamina up.

S: What are you looking forward to seeing/doing at Fringe World 2020?
IS:
I am looking forward to the beaches and the food!

S: What is your favourite part of the playground?
IS:
The swings – no question.

Me & My Divas plays the Lotterwest De Parel Spiegeltent at the Woodside Pleasure Gardens, 20-28 January 2020.

Pictured top is Ian Stroughair as Velma Celli.

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Author —
Nina Levy

Nina Levy has worked as an arts writer and critic since 2007. She co-founded Seesaw and has been co-editing the platform since it went live in August 2017. As a freelancer she has written extensively for The West Australian and Dance Australia magazine, co-editing the latter from 2016 to 2019. Nina loves the swings because they take her closer to the sky.

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