Shoppers beware! Julian Clary is in town and when he’s not camping it up at the Hippodrome, he warns David Johns he’ll be sampling Brum’s new retail therapy experience
Photography by Idil Sukan/Draw HQ @idilsukan on Twitter/Instagram and on Facebook
Julian Clary had no hesitation in declaring where’s the place to be this December. “Birmingham! For lovers of panto like me, there’s nowhere else in the country that can touch it,” he said. “What’s more, I’m really looking forward to doing a touch of Christmas shopping at Grand Central – I hear it’s quite something!” Mind you, Grand Central excepted, the camp comedian and national treasure is a bit of an old hand when it comes to knowing his way around the place. When he opens in an all-new adaptation and production of Aladdin at the Hippodrome this month, it will be his third panto in Brum.
“I can’t quite put my finger on it,” he says, with the usual double entendre tone to his voice, “but Midlanders and panto just go together. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve always thought people from Birmingham are a really rather cheerful lot – they seem to just want to laugh as often as they can. It’s brilliant. And the Hippodrome is just such a big and wonderful place to be. It’s going to be great to be back there and back in Birmingham over Christmas and the New Year.” When we spoke to Julian he was still a few weeks away from starting rehearsals for Aladdin. Instead something else more urgent was on his mind as he was struggling to get to grips with writing his third children’s book about The Bolds, a family of hyenas living disguised as people. The first episode proved a huge hit with kids, and the second is due out in March. “I’ve just received the draft of the third book back from my editor who’s telling me I must make some changes,” he sighed. “Apparently it reads too much like the previous stories… oh, well!”
THE JOY OF MINCING
With one of the heaviest workloads of an entertainer/author on the planet, Julian finds it a challenge to fit it all in. “I love writing, especially for children,” he says. “But I have to work on the book and then drop it and come back to it as and when I can. There’s such a lot going on.” As well as revisiting the book and preparing to rehearse for panto, Julian was starting to work on writing material for his new stand-up tour, The Joy of Mincing, which celebrates 30 years as a stand-up comedian. The first shows are in Australia in February before he returns to tour the UK with a date pencilled in for Birmingham in April. “It’s a lot,” he admits, “but I’m really looking forward to the panto. It’s a completely new show with new costumes and new set. It will be lovely, rather exciting actually. I’m comfortable with panto, I know how I’m going to play it and what to expect.”
During his previous visits to Birmingham, Julian has spent the festive period staying over in both town and country. “This time I am really near the Hippodrome, within walking distance, and near the new station,” he says. “In the past, I’ve done the staying in the rolling countryside bit, which was lovely, but then it snowed which was scary trying to make it in to the theatre in time for the matinee performances.” As well as dropping in to Grand Central and the city’s other ‘retail therapy’ offerings, Julian is looking forward to sampling one or two of the bars and restaurants around the theatre. With two full-on performances a day of Aladdin, Julian won’t exactly be ripping up the town, though. “There isn’t a lot of time,” he says. “Although… we do get Christmas Day off!”