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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Barry Humphries - Eat, Pray, Laugh!
Palladium Winter 2013

Dame Edna Everage is one of the great comic creations of our time, and now that Barry Humphries has announced his farewell tour, fans will want to rush to the Palladium (or any of the other theatres around the country he'll be playing for the next six months), even though this is not absolutely top-rank Dame Edna.

Actually and unsurprisingly, Edna takes up only the second half of the show, Humphries opening as usual in his other guise as Sir Les Patterson along with a couple of other second-string characters. 

Now, everybody understands that Les Patterson is just filler, like the warm-up act for a rock star. But Les's part of the show is particularly uninspired this time around, likely to leave audiences even more impatient than usual for it to finish. 

The character's appeal always lay in this beery fag-ash-dripping slob's belief that he was a cultural ambassador for Australia when he was actually an exaggerated amalgam of all the country's negative stereotypes. 

But Humphries has inexplicably dropped that central joke, as Les suddenly fancies himself a celebrity chef, throwing some meat on the barbie while dropping double entendres and diarrhoea jokes between nipping off to the outhouse and not washing his hands.

It's mildly amusing if you like fart jokes (of which there are several) but not enough to stretch to an hour, as Humphries realises. Les just wanders offstage in mid-routine, to be replaced by a gay paedophile clergyman, surely a big misjudgement about what we find funny these days, and then by a lonely old man, more tedious and less touching than his creator evidently thinks. 

But that's just the warm-up, and everybody knows that the show really starts after the interval, when Humphries dons the sequinned gown, lavender wig and diamante-studded specs and re-appears as the grande dame honouring us with her presence and her ever-so-gracious insults. 

Dame Edna is at her absolute best when interacting with the audience, be it the upper circle ('Hello, paupies') or the front row ('What was that before it was a dress?') 

The scripted parts of her hour, about a celebrity ashram and her estranged daughter, aren't nearly as strong, though her ad libs save an over-extended bit in which she brings two strangers onstage to do some supposed matchmaking. 

In all, the evening is only intermittently funny, though sometimes very very funny. 

But it isn't the stuff of legend, and legend is what we want a farewell show to be.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review -  Barry Humphries - Palladium 2013 

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