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Dame Edna reaches sell-by date

Reporter: Paul Genty
Date online: 05 March 2014

EAT, PRAY, LAUGH, Opera House, Manchester to Saturday

I SUPPOSE choosing a title which parodies that of a movie that sank like a stone goes some way towards suggesting Barry Humphries could be right in making this his final live tour — quite apart from the fact he celebrated his 80th birthday three weeks ago.

As he says during the evening, he hasn’t appeared at the Opera House since 1995 (in “Look at Me When I’m Talking To You”), not that anyone who saw both shows would notice many differences between them.

Yes, the material is new; yes the set is new, but there’s nonetheless an overwhelming familiarity about it all.

Dame Edna still occupies the second half, effortlessly decimating the pretentiousness of those in the front stalls, even this time “marrying” one couple.

The first half again features the outrageously outrageous Les Patterson, all overstuffed trouser leg, innuendo a go-go, lavatory humour and spittle down his front; and Sandy Stone, a ghostly character Humphries has been portraying with stylish, observant and often troublingly black-humoured monologues for decades.

Stone still doesn’t work in the context of what surrounds the item, but I suspect the section is now more important in allowing Humphries to perform sitting down.

The new element of the show is Patterson’s unfunny brother Gerard, a slimy-looking priest rather too fond of leering at the young Indonesian pianist and dispensed with during an on-stage seance featuring two more audience victims.

And that’s one of the problems with “Eat Pray Laugh”: when you aren’t watching the disgusting Patterson or Everage, you aren’t often laughing.

Tuesday’s crowd was so unfamiliar with the material one idiot laughed at virtually everything Sandy Stone said — even when the conversation was about infantile paralysis and death, and not remotely amusing.

So perhaps, after all this time, Humphries is right to call it a day. Dame Edna was a towering achievement and remains so, though her shock value diminishes and the joke quota is notably reduced.

Les Patterson too has a life you would have to bash out of him with a sledgehammer.

But perhaps it’s time to go out on a high?


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