In 2013, on Dame Edna’s “Farewell Tour”, Les Patterson and the lady herself tottered onto the stage of Brighton’s Dome gasping for breath. I half expected to see one of them die on stage, like Sid James or Tommy Cooper. But last night Barry Humphries toddled onto the stage of Eastbourne’s Devonshire Theatre, seemingly sprucer than ever at the age of 88.
This is not (not quite) the Les and Edna show; this is the ‘Making Of’ show, with Humphries talking about his early life in Melbourne and the ‘conceptions’ of Dame Edna as a send-up Australian housewife and Sir Les as a drunken Events Director who got promoted to Cultural Attaché. These two long ago took on lives of their own and are now much-loved figures on the global celebrity circuit.Humphries talks candidly about his boyhood and his near-fatal struggle with alcoholism. If there was one jarring note last night, it was his quizzing members of the audience about their bathroom decor: cringe-making when Edna does it, this doesn’t work when performed out of Edna costume. Throwing ‘gladdies’ was probably another misjudgment, especially without inviting the lucky recipients to wave them during the closing song.
Overall, the evening was a joyous reunion with Edna and Les – in hilarious video clips, including Edna’s naughty invasion of Charles and Camilla’s box at the the Royal Variety Show in 2013 (www.youtube.com/watch?v=1r3S5UKP7ME).
The Barry Humphries show is touring. Don’t miss it if it’s anywhere near you. Newsflash: we are promised another ‘Farewell Tour’ next year. Edna may take as long to leave the stage as that earlier Australian diva, Dame Joan Sutherland!