Sunday, 29 December 2013

The Last Vaudevillian and The Dame's farewell

As Johnny Fox, writing in The Londonist quite rightly observed:
"’s a privilege to touch the hem of [Dame Edna's] rhinestone-encrusted garment at what feels like a canonisation, such is the esteem in which this toweringly fearsome talent has been held by a legion of fans.

"...the genius of Barry Humphries is that while he has retained the format and some of the jokes, the longevity of the act rests on intelligent manipulation of the audience and a combination of ancient and ultra-topical material. Truly, in this respect, he is The Last Vaudevillian."
And so it was that Mark and I took our seats in one of "the ashtrays" (The Dame's nick-name for the boxes at the hugely grand London Palladium) to bask in the glories of Dame Edna/Barry Humphries' "last farewell" show on Friday.

Opening with a typically offensive set from Mr Humphries' other enduring creation, the slobbering vulgarity that is "Australian Cultural Attaché" Sir Les Patterson (spraying the first few rows of the audience with a combination of near-the-knuckle political incorrectness and saliva!), we cringed and laughed in turn as the chosen "assistants" from the audience and the cheesy dancers/helpers played second fiddle to his diarrhoea jokes and disgusting on-stage barbecue - and song-and dance routine:
"I love cuisine. I love cuisine!
I’ve been cookin’ since the day I was sixteen.
Beneath the sheets I used to dream of mastication,
But now a day does not go by, without a degustation …

I love to stew.

He’d love to drizzle his emulsion over you..."

However, this semi-racist and 100% grotesque creature's set was unceremoniously concluded with an appearance by his decidedly dodgy gay brother, Father Gerard (Mr Humphries again) - "A fully paid-up vagina-decliner" according to Les - whose obsession with young men (including the show's pianist) meant he had to wear an electronic tag. He conducted a "seance" - and in a clap of thunder, the stage was cleared for a monologue by another long-standing character, the deceased Sandy Stone. Very thoughtful, very well done, but a bit of a maudlin way to end the first half of a comedy show, we thought...

All was forgiven - of course - in part two, with the triumphal arrival (following a fab video montage of her life, and then "falling" from the back of a bejewelled elephant, no less) of the one we had all come to see, Dame Edna Everage herself!

"Let me look at you," she shrieked, peering into the audience. "You’ve aged!" And with that opening gambit she launched into a tirade of jokes at the expense of the people in the Dress Circle; "the paupers" ("I shall glance at you occasionally - in exact proportion to what you have paid. It’s steep, paupers. It’s like a wall of death up there! I don’t want a downpour of the disadvantaged, a Niagara of nonentities.”).

Those in the stalls escaped even less lightly. Linda from Hertfordshire was asked about her house - detached with four bedrooms - to which Dame Edna retorted: "It costs money to keep up those houses, but you’ve saved on clothes, haven’t you, Linda?”. Or Mary from Putney: "I'm trying to think of a way to describe what Mary is wearing," she says : "Affordable." Older men were picked upon as "the seniors" - " Aww. He’s in a world of his own. He thinks I’m Shrek!”

Most humiliatingly hilarious of all, however - and just one of the many moments we were supremely grateful to be out of the way in a box - was her inevitable dragging of individuals from their seats to join her on stage, on the pretext of having discovered a "psychic Tantric bond" between them. The young gay boy visibly squirmed (as did his boyfriend in the audience) as The Dame declared him and a rather large plain lady "man and wife", then proceeded to phone - live from the stage, much to her surprise, as she shouted the news to her family at home - his mother with the "good news"! Needless to say, out of relief as much as hilarity, the audience was in fits of laughter.

“I don't pick on people – I empower them,” she said as the clearly overcome "happy couple" departed the stage (and Mum at home was treated to free tickets to a later show in the run).

For a performer of almost 80 years of age, Dame Edna/Mr Humphries appears to have boundless energy, launching into dance routines and, as an inevitable finale, hurling "Gladdies" into the audience - even reaching the "paupers" on the balcony - so it makes it even more sad that this really is the last shout for everyone's favourite Aussie housewife megastar.

With a final video montage - this time of his many, many characters who featured at points during his six-decade career - it was Barry Humphries' own turn in the spotlight to bid us all farewell. And we were all very sad to see him go. The entertainment world will never be quite the same again.

Barry Humphries' Farewell Tour - Eat, Pray, Laugh is at the London Palladium until 5th January before going on tour across the UK.


  1. Seems like a fun show! Farewell Dame Edna!

    1. "Superstars may come and go
      But there's no other
      That folks identify with their own mother,
      To think there's people in this room
      Who wish they'd sprung out of my womb
      That's what my public means to me."


  2. I really enjoyed your review which reminded me how much I enjoyed this show when I saw it back in November. I was astonished at his energy over a long show with a lot of character changes. If there's anyone thinking about it just go while you still have the chance!

    1. Thanks very much, Mr/Ms Rambler - and welcome to Dolores Delargo Towers! Jx


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