Liam Rudden reviews Dame Edna at the Festival Theatre.
He feared that might sound pretentious, a comment that could find him in Private Eye’s Pseud’s Corner.
He needn’t have worried, it’s the perfect description of what he does, but then the Melbourne housewife and Gigastar has been his constant companion for nearly six decades.
Consequently, when Dame Edna stepped on the stage of the Festival Theatre last night, at the start of Act Two of Eat, Pray, Laugh! there was not a trace of her creator who, just 20 minutes earlier, had the audience in fits of laughter with three of his other creations.
First, cooking rissoles in his back garden, was the slobbering Sir Les Patterson. Spraying spittle over the front row while battling bouts of diarrhoea, Humphries set out his stall from the start, with Patterson flushing out the laughs with unapologetic toilet humour.
Next came new character Gerry Paterson, a minister with an ungodly fascination – there is no place for political correctness in Humphries’ shows and few topics are not mined for humour.
To round off Act One, the ghostly Sandy – Humphries’ favourite character – demonstrated the fine line between tragedy and comedy, courtesy of a pathos-laced monologue capable of eliciting tears of laughter as well as tears of sadness – a testament to Humphries’ skills as an actor.
While his characters may seem, at times, beyond the pale, they work because each is imbued with an element of truth. Each is a comment on aspects of society that we may not like, but which Humphries challenges us to address.
For most, however, it’s Dame Edna they came to see. Gloriously brash, the famous face-furniture in place, the Moonee Ponds housewife holds court. And this is where the channelling comes in, as the 79-year-old riffs effortlessly with unlucky members of the audience, his ad-libbing skills as sharp, as spontaneous, and as hilariously caustic as ever.
This is a master class in stand-up, and of audience control.
And so a legend takes his leave of us. It’s a fitting farewell, complete with big song and dance numbers, outrageous audience participation . . . there’s even an jewel-encrusted elephant.
Taking the curtain call as himself, Humphries received a well-earned standing ovation, only partly orchestrated by The Dame herself. But then, who would have expected any less of his gladioli-wielding alter-ego.
n Run ends Saturday.