My sides are still hurting after seeing Barry Humphries’ brilliantly funny, raucous performance last night at the Bristol Hippodrome.
The show was a delight of comedy, laughter, flamboyance and showmanship, or should I say showwomanship! All that you’d expect from this legendary consummately professional artist and performer.
The historic Hippodrome was the perfect venue for him to say farewell to the city in the twilight days of his long and illustrious career.
The Men at Work classic single Down Under signalled the arrival of the former Australian cultural attaché; Les Patterson, dressed in bright orange shorts with a matching vividly coloured Hawaiian shirt – naturally already dribbled down!
Les is now apparently Australia’s answer to Nigella Lawson, as he has become a celebrity chef, he says. After much revolting behaviour, only to be expected from his character, he performed a song and dance routine accompanied by his ‘condiments’ (appropriately named Rosemary, Saffron, Basil and Masala).
We were then treated to a live cooking of his recipe for what were called rissoles complete with the Les generated additional ingredient of spittle, which he freely sprayed over the front row of the audience.
There were plenty of jokes in his stand up routine and very noisy, urgent trips to the ‘dunny’, after his encounter with Mexican cuisine.
His character had the audience captivated and even though some of the jokes were certainly politically incorrect, but you couldn’t have expected anything else from the ‘Australian diplomat.
My main concern was that he was going to make the members of the audience sample his ‘cuisine’.
Sir Les went on a prolonged visit to the dunny and in the meantime his brother Gerard, the vicar came on to the stage to wreak havoc. Soon after he appeared he leered towards the young man playing the piano, and immediately the electronic tag on his ankle started flashing and vibrating for all to see.
Gerard then invited two audience members onto the stage to perform a “séance” which saw smoke, flashing lights and hectic movement, acrobatics and dance.
At the end of the sequence his next character Sandy Stone appeared in a dressing gown and hot water bottle to tell us of his perspective of life after death.
His performance as this character was so remarkably different that many of the audience failed to appreciate how touching and very close to the truth of what life is like for many older people in their latter years. A truly moving performance which artfully avoided any over-sentimentality and mawkishness; showing the remarkable versatility of this brilliant performer.
The second half of the show is pure Dame Edna at her most vivacious and vicious. As the lights go up in the auditorium you know only too well she is eyeing her next victims!
Two poor, unsuspecting people were invited on to the stage as apparently their DNA match was perfect and they were destined to be united in marriage. They were anything but suited and the male participant was already in a civil partnership, although Dame Edna did tell him that this was surely only a ‘temporary phase’ in his life.
Once she’d married them she telephoned his mother to tell her the good news, but as they were not in she left a long answerphone message. If she had really done so what a shock it would have been for his parents on all accounts!
The warmth for Barry Humphries’ greatest and most successful creation was evident and they delighted in Dame Edna’s quick wit, one liners and remarkable antics for someone who had turned 80 two days before the performance.
He never fails to excite the audience and the performance ended with rapturous applause in a standing ovation at the end.
The show ended with a surprise appearance from Barry Humphries, as himself, just as the audience were gathering themselves up to leave, and he ends the show with effortless grace and charm. He said that it had been twenty-seven years since he was last on the Bristol Hippodrome stage and thanked us for all coming to his farewell, farewell tour – giving us a glimmer of hope that there may be another ‘farewell tour’ – who knows – no one can predict what he will do next!
He’s playing until this Saturday, so catch him while you can and be prepared to eat, pray and laugh – you will be guaranteed to have a truly memorable time.
by Patricia Vine
For more information, visit Bristol Hippodrome website.