Review: Dame Edna’s farewell tour is an honour to enjoy

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Looking splendid and sparkling in a little blue, sequinned number, the ever glamorous Dame Edna cast her eye disparagingly down on a woman in the front row of Milton Keynes Theatre.

“Glad to see you have come dressed for the occasion,” she said. “Not this occasion, but perhaps washing the car or helping someone’s pet to give birth.”

The theatre soon filled with laughter and the show carried on. To be more precise, last night’s evening of comedy was part of Barry Humphries’ farewell tour, which will be at Milton Keynes Theatre for the rest of the week.

And the poor victims, sorry, audience members, in the first three or four rows were directly in the firing line for all sorts of goodies during the evening’s entertainment, some more welcome than others.

As well as Dame Edna’s ever-sharp wit and helpful marriage guidance, the first few rows were all liberally showered with Sir Les Patterson’s mouthfuls of spit, and were even hit with plenty of gladioli, thrown at them energetically by Barry’s helpers.

While some comedy shows rely solely on one man and an audience, Barry’s show was best described as an all-singing, all-dancing extravaganza, full of his favourite characters, new and old.

As the title suggests, this looks set to be Barry’s last major tour with his much-loved characters and, in a sense, it is a showcase of the best of them and incredibly poignant as well as funny.

Without giving away too many of the tour’s secrets, the character of Sir Les Patterson is seen as having reinvented himself as the world’s greatest celebrity chef. Sadly, his sense of hygiene and dodgy bowel movements are no testament to his cooking.

When his brother, the clergyman Gerard Patterson (a chap with a flair for exorcisms and an eye for younger men) arrives on stage, complete with glowing prison tag, he is able to conjure up the spirit of another old favourite character...Sandy Stone.

The pace of the show suddenly stops as the audience pause to listen to the meanderings of the ghost of an old man reflecting on the life of the wife he left behind. This section was very sad and any laughs came through the moments of truth hinted at in the comedy, for example, the technique of care at certain elderly people’s homes which involves sitting around the edge of a room watching Jeremy Kyle with the sound off.

The highlight of the show had to be the second half when Dame Edna, arguably Barry’s best-loved character, took to the stage in a hilarious set which saw her take part in song and dance numbers, make an impromptu call to a member of someone’s family and regale stories about her daughter’s pit-bull breeding in Milton Keynes.

Of course, audiences need a healthy sense of humour and an awareness that all political correctness will be thrown promptly out of the window by Barry’s many characters, but for those who can appreciate his own brand of edgy comedy, this show is truly recommended.

Barry Humphries is one of those comedians who will remain iconic and stands in the same league as the likes of Morecambe and Wise. It felt like an honour to have the opportunity to see him on stage.

Barry Humphries: Eat, Pray, Laugh! will run at Milton Keynes Theatre up to and including Saturday.