Julian Clary happy to return to Norfolk

The lord of high camp is back. Julian Clary tells Angi Kennedy why he's delighted to be returning to Norfolk.It'll be a strange mixture when Julian Clary looks out into the audience for his new tour, that starts in Norwich next week.

It'll be a strange mixture when julian clary looks out into the audience for his new tour, which starts in Norwich this Monday and Tuesday.

'There are people who remember me from the Eighties and Nineties, plus a whole new audience who found me through Strictly Come Dancing,' he laughs, adding of the latter group: 'They sit there slightly wide-eyed!'

But don't expect him to be making any concessions to spare his new-found fans' blushes.

'I have to please myself. There is a whole section of audience participation, which is obviously improvised and fun,' he explains.

'I like it, and people love being picked on. Me? I wouldn't like it at all, but there are people who are up for it!'

Julian is the master of audience participation, encouraging willing volunteers to shed their inhibitions on stage in the most risqu� of comedy situations. And yet off-stage he is a somewhat reserved, private person.

Most Read

Returning to Norfolk, where the tour begins at the Norwich Playhouse on Monday and Tuesday, will be a treat he is very much looking forward to. His family has long associations with the county and he feels Norfolk has 'got it right'.

His grandparents lived at Stoke Ferry, where his mother, Doreen, grew up. Many of his childhood holidays were spent in the west Norfolk village and he has fond memories of his visits there.

'I spent a lot of time in Stoke Ferry as a child. We would always go to King's Lynn and to Bury,' he explains.

'My grandparents had a big garden, so we would come up from Teddington at Christmas and a lot of the summer holidays.

'They have gone now, but I still have friends in Stoke Ferry.'

Now, however, his trips to the county are limited to working commitments.

'A few months ago I was there for a try-out of the tour. I love Norwich and the whole Norfolk accent always fascinated me. They just seem to 'get' me in Norfolk.'

He is enviably unchanged after 25 years in the business.

He's still boyishly handsome out of the garish slap and he speaks in that disarming way that has enabled him to get away with so many outrageous remarks during his long career - the exception, of course, being his controversial remark about the then-chancellor Norman Lamont at the British Comedy Awards.

Julian celebrated his 50th birthday this May.

'It was a landmark birthday for me and I do feel kind of satisfied with my life,' he admits.

'It is an achievement in many ways. Looking back at one's wild youth, when I think of my 20s, hanging around Soho and the promiscuity of youth . . .

'I know quite a few people who didn't get this far, and I have achieved certain things.

'I like each phase of life and this is a nice time. You still have your health and can get about.

'I did enjoy my 40s, but there was a certain amount of wistfulness for your youth. By 50 you are so far from it you can relax more and enjoy the journey.'

And part of that journey is taking him back on stage, where he began all those years ago in his act called The Joan Collins Fan Club, in the company of his beloved Fanny the Wonder Dog.

'The tour is my reward to myself,' he says.

'I have been spending a couple of years writing books. I need to have that laughter of a live audience.'

He can't wait to be out on the road again: 'I love the travelling and breezing into a different town every night. I love meeting people and I quite enjoy the hotel life.

'It's getting back to how I started - you never quite lose it. I do get an adrenalin rush, but I am not ill with nerves, I'm looking forward to it.'

After the tour - which will take him the length and breadth of the country - Julian will be in panto as Dandini in Cinderella at Crawley.

Then it will be back to his home in Kent to begin writing the next book. Already to his name Julian has his bestselling autobiography, A Young Man's Passage, and two novels, Murder Most Fab and Devil in Disguise.

'It is a different type of satisfaction. I did feel that if you are writing something funny in a book it is there forever, whereas if you say something funny on stage it has gone.'

Away from the bright lights, he says he enjoys the peace and concentration involved in writing.

'I have dogs and chickens and boyfriends, but I have always been very solitary anyway so it isn't something that is too difficult for me to cope with. Having said that, though, even up on stage you are on your own.'

But it was when he teamed up with dancer Erin Boag in BBC1's Strictly Come Dancing a couple of years ago that he won a whole new audience.

And he followed this up by appearing in the Strictly arena tour. 'Fantastic!' he describes the experience. 'Appearing at the O2 and getting a laugh out of 1,500 people, I loved it.

'It was very different to the TV show. The audience do the voting and I won three times - but I did plead with them!'

The Strictly experience features large in the new show, which he has titled Lord of the Mince - claiming he has 'done for mincing what Michael Flatley did for dancing'.

But, he promises there will be no demonstrations of his fleet-footedness . . . 'not while I'm in Norfolk - at least not in public'.

Julian Clary's Lord of the Mince UK tour starts at Norwich Playhouse on Monday and Tuesday. Box office 01603 598598, www.norwichplayhouse.co.uk