Eat, Pray Laugh – Barry Humphries Farewell Tour

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There are very few talents who can create a character and, 58 years later, still seem to be taking the role to new places and opening up new ideas. That, in addition to the incomparable Dame Edna EverageBarry Humphries has a wealth of other characters at his disposal, each primed for an attack on the funny bone makes for a hilarious, heart-warming and at times rather poignant show.

We open on a garden, sun shining and the accoutrements of a barbecue ready to be put to work as leggy dancing girls and strapping lads appear on stage heralding the arrival of cultural attaché and political animal Sir Les Patterson who announces he is stepping away from the political arena to become a celebrity chef. Welcoming the crowd to Southampton “Gateway to Portsmouth!”, the spittle is immediately flying and Humphries’ barbed wit is apparent as he berates a pair of latecomers who, when questioned admit they had come from Devizes. “I came from Australia and I was on fucken time!” declares sir Les with a cheeky grin. From here the comedy is all bodily fluids, sexual innuendo and the kind of casually racist banter that Patterson so wonderfully uses to turn a mirror on the audience. We also meet his brother Gerald, a pervert priest just itching for someone to defrock him, who holds a séance and conjures up the spirit of Sandy Stone

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Here the night’s proceedings turn  in a way I hadn’t anticipated, with the softly spoken Stone satirising the disregard with which we view the elderly and delivering a story about the memory of his infant daughter’s death that was put across with the pathos you might expect of an Alan Bennett monologue.

The interval passes and as the lights dim the sense of expectation in the theatre becomes palpable then, astride an elephant and bedecked in enough diamante to blind the entire audience with reflected light the self-proclaimed “housewife-gigastar” is among us. For the next 80 minutes or so Edna lovingly insults everyone in the audience from the ‘Julie’ who can’t remember what kind of house she lives in to the two strangers plucked from the audience and married on stage. There are laughs aplenty and moments that, in the best possible way, make you cringe so much you wish to disappear, but what shines through above all is that this is the kind of comedic talent you see once in a life time!

When, as the curtain drops and then rises, you finally see Humphries in his own skin you realise just how small, how frail and old he has become… yet his presence still looms large. If this really is the last hurrah, I’m glad I was there to see it, there won’t be another quite like Dame Edna!

Matt

Matt has been writing on all manner of subjects for over 15 years. He has written for a number of music magazines, made appearances on BBC Introducing and regularly contributed to local newspapers. These days he mostly writes about rugby and is passionate about providing insight into women's rugby! He also writes on theatre and regularly reviews shows across the south.

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