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Review: Dame Edna: Eat Pray Laugh! at Newcastle Theatre Royal

Barry Humphries brought a handful of memorable characters to the stage... but there was only one lady we were waiting for

*****
Dame Edna Everage Tour
Dame Edna Everage Tour

In the second half of Barry Humphries’ triumphant return – and farewell – to the touring stage, his most famous creation, Dame Edna Everage, hilariously berates many an audience member on their choice of attire for the evening.

“Ah, you dressed for a special occasion didn’t you darling?” she asks one lady. “Just not this one...”

I tell you what though, if I’d booked a seat in the first four rows, I might have raided my car-cleaning drawer for an outfit too. You see, before we were graced with the formidable presence of an apparently enlightened Edna, there had been the most horrific of pleasures, in the form of Sir Les Patterson (and his overactive saliva glands) to deal with.

Currently pursuing dreams of becoming the next big celebrity chef, the outrageous Australian antique of a man staged a cooking demonstration with the help of his “condiments”, aka the ensemble cast.

Punctuated by the breaking of wind (at both ends), regular and vocal trips to the on-stage dunny and self-congratulation for “getting the fourth row” with his projectile annunciations, Les combines being utterly grotesque and the antithesis of political correctness to very funny effect.

The arrival of his brother, Gerard – a predatory priest with a flashy electronic tag, who is a newcomer to the Humphreys character stable – pushes the boundaries of taste even further. The first act is concluded with the celestial arrival of Sandy Stone – a wonderfully drawn surburban pensioner who reminisces about his unremarkable life from beyond the grave and ponders the treatment of his widow in the care home where she now resides with quiet contempt.

Offering a fine example of how to mix humour and pathos to powerful effect, there were moments you could have heard a droplet of Les’s spit drop.

If the first half finished quietly, the second blew our badly-chosen socks off as Dame Edna finally arrived to detail her journey to spiritual fulfilment... even demonstrating a moment of “tantric intimacy” between two lively audience members on stage. (Sting wasn’t involved, in case you were wondering.)

These were just two of the crowd who she chose to “empower” throughout a side-splitting hour of classic Edna observations, anecdotes and inimitably delivered put-downs.

After a rousing gladioli-waving finale (at 79, this Dame can still get them up to the grand circle by the way), the man behind all we had seen emerged as himself... and asked us to promise we’d buy tickets for his next farewell tour. I can’t imagine there was anyone crossing their fingers as they obliged.

It would be easy to say the whole evening offered a masterclass in something for any performer... but in truth, a masterclass from Barry Humphries would be pointless. You simply can’t teach that.

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