AFTER his “Fleshius Creepius” panto villain in York Stage’s Jack And The Beanstalk, Ian Stroughair planned to pull on his drag rags for a live Velma Celli show on January 15 at his adopted winter home of Theatre @41 Monkgate.
He anticipated more shows would have followed too, but then came York’s new impediment of Tier 3 status post-Christmas, and inevitably tighter restrictions still to come until the jabs make their point.
Consequently, he announces instead: “Darlings, as we head back into a lockdown in York, Velma Celli is back on the streaming! My first show, Large & Lit In Lockdown Again, is on Friday (8/1/2021) at 8pm. I would love you to join me for an hour of camp cabaret fun! Get those requests and shout-outs in!”
In 2020, Velma hosted a series of streamed shows from Case De Velma Celli, alias the drag diva’s Bishopthorpe kitchen. Firstly, on April 29, a fundraiser for St Leonard’s Hospice, followed by Large & Lit In Lockdown and virtual versions of the cabaret queen’s hit shows Equinox, Me & My Divas and A Night At The Musicals.
Usually to be found once a month gracing The Basement stage at City Screen, York, Velma returned to live performance in York by signing up for a rugby club – York RI Rugby Union Football Club, in New Lane, Acomb, to be precise – for An Evening Of Song outdoors under the September stars.
Jack And The Beanstalk saw Ian turn to the dark side as the vainglorious “Fleshius Creepius”, and now, newly moved into a riverside abode in York, he is ready to return to Velma Celli mode from Friday.
Tickets for Virtual Velma start at £10 via http://bit.ly/3nVaa4N. Watch this space for news of an online show every Friday from Ian’s new HQ.
Here, Ian answers Charles Hutchinson’s quickfire questions at the outset of a new year still shrouded in uncertainty for the arts world.
From where will you be streaming the January 8 show? Still as a kitchen-sing drama or from a different room at your new riverside pad?
“The living room.”
On a technical level, what did you learn about doing digital streams from your earlier series of shows?
“That tech is stressful but once you have a system, it’s a piece of cake.”
What will the new show feature: any songs making their debut?
“Expect lots of divas as per. I’m gonna whack in some classic Amy Winehouse too: Back In Black.”
Will a remote guest be joining you?
“Not this time. You get Velma all to yourself.”
Your 2020 ended on a high with the villainous Fleshius Creepius in York Stage’s Jack And The Beanstalk. How did it feel to be back on stage in a show with a proper run to it?
“It was EVERYTHING. Such a joy and a wonderful experience. Feel so lucky and positive for a return of theatre as a whole!”
What did you enjoy most about performing this pantomime – a new hybrid of “pansical” or “musical theatre with pantomime braces on” – in your home city?
“Working with the entire team. Everyone was sensational. The most talented cast I’ve ever worked with.”
What were your highlights of 2020, aside from the pantomime?
“Reconnecting with York. I’ve fallen in love with it big time. Growing up here was a very different place and time, especially for the LGBTQIA+, but now it’s SO much more diverse.”
What realistic hopes do you have for yourself in 2021?
“That I can stay afloat until venues can open. It’s hard but, my lord, I’ll plod on.”
What hopes would you still have for 2021 in an ideal world?
“That theatre and the arts in general would have a boom and rebirth. I’m hopeful but realistic it may take longer than I dream.”
If you could address the Government, why do the arts matter?
“We need the arts more than we ever thought. It’s entertainment. It’s escapism. It’s culture. We all need it.”