Velma Celli at York Theatre Royal

Love is a drag for Velma Celli at York Theatre Royal

LOVE is the drag for cabaret star Velma Celli at York Theatre Royal on May 29 as part of The Love Season to mark the spring reawakening. York’s drag diva deluxe, the creation of musical actor Ian Stroughair, will be performing one of Velma’s regular shows, re-titled Love Is Love: A Brief Of History Of Drag.

“I last performed at the Theatre Royal in Kes, when I was 14, exactly 24 years ago, and sadly I’ve never been back,” says Ian. “I’ve tried to do shows there but it’s never happened, so it’s great to be back now. I love what Tom [chief executive Tom Bird] is doing there.”

Ian has taken A Brief History Of Drag to New York and Australia and on a British tour, as well as staging performances in London and York. “I’ve been doing it for four years now on and off, and I’m so glad the Theatre Royal wants the show,” he says.

“I wrote it when I was stuck in Africa for a few weeks. I thought, ‘let’s write a show’ and it ended up being about how I got into drag and a celebration of the impact of drag in theatre, music, film and popular culture.”

Ian was last seen on a York stage in December as the villainous Fleshius Creepius in York Stage’s debut pantomime Jack And The Beanstalk at Theatre @41, Monkgate.

Velma Celli’s regular York residency has moved to Impossible in York, Tokyo Industries’ new tea-room, cocktail bar, restaurant and speakeasy enterprise in the old Terry’s café in St Helen’s Café, latterly home to Carluccio’s restaurant. That will not be Velma Celli’s only gig in the first-floor Impossible Wonderbar. He is planning the first Drag Brunch, with Velma, surprise guest drag queens, bottomless cocktails and brunch.

Ian first moved back to York from London for Lockdown 1 when the pandemic sent him home from a Velma Celli Australian tour. He has now settled back in his home city permanently, travelling to London for three days a week when necessary.

Streamed concerts, first from a Bishopthorpe kitchen and latterly from a riverside abode by the Ouse Bridge, have kept Velma Celli’s voice in spectacular working order, sometimes accompanied by soul-singing York hairdresser Jessica Steel. 

West End star Ian has appeared in such musicals as Cats, Fame, Chicago and Rent – not forgetting a sassy cameo for Velma Celli on BBC1’s EastEnders – but had to forego a long run in Funny Girls in Blackpool last year because of Covid.

 Love Is Love: A Brief History of Drag is at York Theatre Royal on May 29. Box office 01904 623568 or