LOVE them or hate them, you certainly can’t ignore the alter egos of Mr Barry Humphries, who has flung more gladiolas and drowned under a ten tons of slap for half a century.
He’s back touring with what he says is his farewell show ... Eat, Pray, Laugh. I find that hard to believe he’s bowing out. He’s sure to be back.
Barry has a big – a very big - cult following, which is why there was a feeling of tension mixed with pleasure in the auditorium at the Opera House before curtain up. Let’s face it, we knew what we were in for as be brings to life his Australian housewife and superstar Dame Edna Everage and the drunk-as-a-monkey ambassador Sir Les Patterson.
Alas, time has passed and it seems that the Dame’s sad-faced diddy bridesmaid, Madge, has gone to that big wedding reception in the sky. Oh, how we all missed her. RIP Madge.
And just to show straight away how politically incorrect Eat, Pray, laugh is, Barry has introduced a paedophile priest. Oh dear. But let’s face it, 99.99 per cent of folks going to see the sainted, sequinned, salivating Barry know that there’s going to be some disgusting and nauseating moments. I say some, well that’s an understatement.
It’s true, he picks out a couple of members of the audience and whilst seeming to praise them insults them to the core. He also has a man and woman on stage, totally takes the Mickey out of them and then performs a mock marriage ceremony.
Whether this will be his last live show is another matter. It could well be and at the final curtain he came on as himself and remembered Manchester with affection.
We’ve come to know Sir Les and the Dame so very well – and by heck they’ve been around for a long time. But it’s 19 years since they graced the stage of the Opera House.
My view is that Barry’s success is that for much of the time, he makes us believe that he’s actually making fun of himself. Is he ... isn’t he? Can’t work that one out.
Nice touch was at the end of the show when he invited members of the audience to take as many photos of him as they liked. And boy did those flashes work overtime.
Behind all the laughter and the fun and the comic genius that is Barry Humphries there lies a very serious and intellectual man who takes delight in collecting paintings and iconic old books.
We know the characters so well. But how well do we know Barry? One view is that like his old books, he’s a closed volume enjoying great privacy when he’s not dolled up as the Dame.
This extravagant show runs at the Manchester Opera House until Saturday.