Julian Clary: Canned Clary at St James
Once upon a time Julian Clary was the target of a campaign by The Daily Mail and The Sun to be banned from TV after making a joke about fisting Norman Lamont. Those outré heydays are over now, as Clary presents a more subdued mix of anecdote, song, audience participation and drag in St James Theatre. It is stuffed full of filthy innuendo, Clary retains his demure and unruffled style, but there is nothing particularly provocative in what he is doing anymore – not even in the childish insinuation about potential paedophiles.
Sarah Travis entertains the audience on the piano with some light jazz and boogie-woogie before Clary, accompanied by grinning sidekick Hugh Jelly, takes to the stage. Clary starts to interact with the audience: “What’s your name? Any idea?” he says to a man in the front row. Then a story about a woman whose embrace left the imprint of her genitals on his leg. Throughout his stories and innuendos (“The staff here have bent over backwards to help me – especially the security guard”) he never quite smiles, but hovers somewhere between a smirk and a grimace.
The bulk of the barely structured show consists of bringing four people on stage to compete for a prize. It is the most entertaining bit, purely because chance selected a bizarre quartet to take part. The first man is a traffic warden, number two is intensely uncomfortable at being on stage, the third man is a clown and the last of the four is a nutty woman who completely takes control of the conversation, rambling about her mallet finger. They participate in a variety of suggestive tasks – tasting flavoured condoms, squirting icing onto a cake. Then Clary interviews drag artist Titti La Camp about the history of drag, and La Camp does a segment of her own dressed as Susan Boyle and miming loosely to I Dreamed A Dream.
If you have heard of Clary then you probably know what to expect: campness, trite gay stereotypes and double entendres galore. The show’s rough around the edges feel is fine for a doting crowd, and many of the audience are clearly devoted fans, but the material is stale. It felt like Clary was upstaged by the audience members he brought onstage, who injected some energy and unpredictability into the show.
Canned Clary is at St James Theatre until 6th June 2014. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.