His show is more cosy fireside chat than performance - just without the velvet chair, whisky decanter, and, well, fire. A mixed bag of topics, that otherwise wouldn’t morph quite so well from one to the other, all find a comfortable place in his set. This includes his resemblance to John Howard, Y-fronts versus boxers, hairpieces and modern media.
James philosophises along the way, with a bit of political commentary thrown in for good measure. He provides some insightful thoughts, “the freemarket has a brain and a spine but the Government has to provide the mind”.
But, it’s in his observations about popular culture where he is on more sure ground. He bemoans the withering of quality moments in mass media. His concern is that whereas an individual could be confronted with occasional quality in popular media, now it is increasingly likely that the individual would have to look for it. Quality still exists but is becoming increasingly difficult to find given the greater saturation of media and information, and hence less accessible to the masses.
Despite his worldliness and wit James gave glimpses of his intolerances or prejudices. One obvious one was his distaste of ‘boom box cars’ and ‘youths with backward caps’, for him a universal sign of idiocy. In a number of examples like this his humour showed its political colour and age.
James closed the show with a very civil session of questions from the audience. “Whatever happened to Margarita Pracatan?” It was the most needed question and only James could answer. Margarita was the cabaret chanteuse extraordinaire who got her break performing on The Clive James Show. It was her quirky renditions of pop hits that made her a cult figure on his show in Britain. From his answer it seems that the relationship with James didn’t flower and that Margarita is back selling underwear in New York.
Clive James is part of that generation of Australian literati who went to mother England seeking wealth and worldliness. He achieved both, and his recounts of flirtations with the rich and famous still make his conversation engaging, even though less so for the young. His wisecracks help make the performance, with some worthwhile wisdom in his area of expertise – popular culture.
Out on His Own!
Venue: Adelaide Town Hall
Date/Time: Friday 12 October, 8.00pm
Bookings: BASS 131 246 or Groups (08) 8205 2220