Review – Eat, Pray, Laugh! Barry Humphries’ Farewell Tour

Nov 6 2013 | By More

✭✭✭✭✩  Unique, Possums, Unique!

Barry Humphries as Dame Edna in Eat, Pray, Laugh!

Barry Humphries as Dame Edna in Eat, Pray, Laugh!

Festival Theatre
Tue 5 – Sat 9 November 2013
Review by Thom Dibdin

Foul mouthed, rabidly racist and deliberately disparaging, there are few shrinking violets among the comic characters created by Barry Humphries, whose goodbye tour Eat, Pray, Laugh! is at the Festival Theatre all week.

Of course it is Dame Edna Everage, housewife superstar, who most people go to see. And it is Dame Edna who, with her trademark synchronised gladioli waving, provides the big send-off.

But those who have arrived expecting nothing but gladdies, affectionate laughs at the Possums, the odd song and some gentle mocking of the less well-dressed members of the audience should be aware that the first half contains nothing of the sort.

Instead 79 year-old Humphries lets rip with his most notorious of creations, the belligerent Sir Les Patterson, one-time Australian cultural attaché to the far east.

But the bandy-legged, farting, belching, lecherous and innately racist character has been retired from government life. Instead, he is touting a TV cookery programme with the title Les Get Cooking and help from the Condiments, a quartet of long-legged long-suffering backing performers, who are called on to do everything from sing to cook.

And if this is political incorrectness run rampant, those who watch Australian politics will know that the character is horribly correct in its observation of Australian political classes.

More to the point, this is Barry Humphries in fine form. Calling audience members up on stage – terrified that he might make them taste some of his cooking which contains several of his bodily fluids – he riffs off their comments and keeps the evening flowing smoothly.

His delivery might not be rapid fire, but it is assured and deft, while his material is well researched, local and topical.

Given that Humphries will be 80 during the current tour, it is astonishing to report that he has the energy to introduce a new character into his repartee. Les’s brother, Father Gerard Patterson, is a Catholic priest with a predilection for young men – and the tag on his leg to prove it.

But in a first half which oozes theatrical flair, it is the final non-Edna character, Sandy Stone, whose appearance out of a devilish pandemonium provides the most though-provoking moments.

So splashed with bling that she could serve as a mirror-ball
Barry Humphries as Sandy Stone in  in Eat, Pray, Laugh!

Barry Humphries as Sandy Stone in in Eat, Pray, Laugh!

Stone, the decent old man from the suburbs who never in his life felt the need to travel, talks from beyond the grave in a monologue which touches the heart and reduces his audience to stunned silence.

Plenty of comedians can pull off a moment’s pathos in their shows. Indeed, structurally, it provides dividends when a monologue returns to the funnies. But while Stone as a character provides a wistful and pointed observation of a generation which was already bewildered by modern times in the 1970s, his monologue is a breathtaking exploration of loss and hidden grief.

All of which, makes Stone’s final moments on stage as the curtain falls for the interval all the more hard-hitting and effective.

Which leaves a whole second half for Humphries to let Dame Edna bid her adieus to her loving possums.

She has been off on an Ashram, it would seem. Noising up the Dalai Lama, no less. And she arrives on stage in triumph, on the back of an elephant.

Anything less would not be fitting. And in a powder-blue, sari-inspired outfit – so splashed with bling that she could serve as a mirror-ball – Dame Edna demonstrates exactly how her brand of audience participation should be done.

It is her way of drawing the audience in, making friends with a person and then disparaging them in front of thousands of strangers – all in the one breath – in which Dame Edna excels.

And while this tour has been ongoing since July 2012 – and is booked until at least March next year – it feels fresh and volatile. That is largely due to the importance of audience members coming onto the stage for its narrative, but the material is also very relevant. So much so, that you can not imagine the show, as it is performed in Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre, from existing in that same form anywhere else.

Humphries is a unique voice in comedy. And coming out of the theatre after the show, it feels as if you have been privileged to have seen him perform.

Running time 2 hrs, 40 mins.
Festival Theatre, 13-29 Nicholson St, Edinburgh  EH8 9FT
Tue 5 – Sat 9 November 2013, daily 7.30pm (Thurs, Sat mat 2.30pm).
Full details and tickets are here:

Eat, Pray, Laugh! Barry Humphries’ Farewell Tour: 2013

Tue 5 – Sat 9 November 2013 Edinburgh
Festival Theatre
0131 529 6000 Book online
Wed 13 Nov 2013 – Sun 5 Jan 2014 London
London Palladium
0844 874 0743 Book online

Eat, Pray, Laugh! Barry Humphries’ Farewell Tour: 2014

Tue 21 – Sat 25 January 2014 Newcastle
Theatre Royal
08448 11 21 21 Book online
Tue 28 January – Sat 1 February 2014 Southampton
The Mayflower
02380 711811 Book online
Tue 4 – Sat 8 February 2014 Norwich
Theatre Royal
01603 63 00 00 Book online
Tue 11 – Sat 15 February 2014 Glasgow
King’s Theatre
0844 871 7648 Book online
Tue 18 – Sat 22 February 2014 Bristol
0844 871 3012 Book online
Tue 25 February – Sat 1 March 2014 Leeds
Grand Theatre
0844 848 2700 Book online
Tue 4 – Sat 8 March 2014 Manchester
Opera House
0844 871 3018 Book online


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