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Julian Clary - A Fistful of Clary (London Palladium) and touring

(seen at the performance on 19th May 2024)

The same age as Madonna, but with fewer additives, it is a delight to welcome Mr Clary to a stage he has made his own every Christmas for the past 8 years, headlining the annual pantomime here.

Each year, his panto innuendos get more outrageous, the parents who ignore the age suitability warnings angrier, and the rest of the audience more delighted at how he gets away with it.

This time, we are back to the shy and retiring Julian the monkey remembers from the 1980s Comedy Store. Those were the days he was enjoying the delights of Fanny, his Wonder Dog, and his humour was a little less tempered by the fires of time. The years have been kind, his wisdom matured and...

... who is the monkey kidding? If you like his spiky exuberant brand of acid camp in panto, he's even better holding his (or someone else’s) own with an adult audience to tease, chat with and generally philosophise to as he entertains for almost two hours.

Oddly, at times the humour is less filthy than each December. Innuendo feels dirtier than coming right out with it. Which he does, and never lets up.

Best line of the night is easily the payoff to his routine about consulting a private doctor (against his left-leaning principles, we take his word they lean that way, I thank you) and being told that the last person to sit in his waiting room seat was Prince Andrew. 

"I'm not sure what he was there for" quipped Clary, "but knowing him, I'd think it was something minor."

A whole flow of that stuff is augmented by endless banter with the audience. For future note, there’s no point one member of a group sitting in the front row and the rest bunkering down 6 rows further back. If your front row friend is picked on, Clary will have him ratting you out in no time, so that there is no hiding place.

Oh, and wear something decent – shorts won’t cut it, and that cheap dress just draws enquiries about local market opening hours.

Centrepiece of the (mostly overlooked in act one) “Wild West” theme, a terrific second half audience participation playlet - reminiscent of his TV shows - featuring six ‘volunteers’ should be considered for panto inclusion (cleaned up, of course). Clary fields nimbly every dropped ball from his unwilling cast and spins comedy gold.

Fresh from playing King Herod in the current tour of “Jesus Christ Superstar” (wish he’d been working the performance the monkey saw the day before) Clary is in good voice for a number of songs. Panto co-star Gary Wilmot provides a Knob (of butter) number extraordinaire and there’s a brilliant re-write of “Where Do You Go To My Lovely,” opening the second half to gales of laughter.

Clary knows how to construct an evening, though, occasionally stepping back with a repeat of his 2023 panto tribute re-working of “As If We Never Said Goodbye” to his great friend, the much-missed Paul O’Grady, and finishing on a heartfelt song for those members of the rainbow community living in countries where their rights to the simplest feelings are denied.

Ably assisted by a lesbian stage manager and pair of dancers he picked up in Soho and couldn’t be bothered to assign a dance company name to, the preceding show is rightly summed up by the fireworks illuminating the bows.

If one longer set about touring, and also his tennis interludes, don’t quite fly, it doesn’t matter. There are surprisingly few swear-words, immaculate timing, quicksilver improvisation, and inventive originality honed over years. Proof to the writers of the “gay panto” the monkey saw last year that “gay humour” does not just mean endless anal jokes. 

This is a celebration of Clary’s lifestyle, inclusive for those broadminded enough and willing to listen - proof positive that we must always share who and not just what we are. That way lies fellowship, togetherness, and the best therapy of all – one fine night of hearty laughter.

If this wandering star is coming your way (don't be surprised) and don't miss him.

4 stars.

Tour dates:

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