Comedy review: Barry Humphries, Edinburgh

Barry Humphries. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Barry Humphries. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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After more than 50 years in show business, Barry Humphries is calling it a day, gathering up a selection of his best loved and most grotesque creations down the years, for one final stage hurrah in Eat, Pray, Laugh.

Barry Humphries - Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

* * *

The first half of this two-hour farewell show is dominated by the bigoted, flatulent Sir Les Patterson, who has decided to quit the political game and become a rather unlikely celebrity chef. While the aroma of frying onions fills the auditorium, we thankfully are not in range of other odours he produces as he belches, salivates and pontificates his way through his rancid set.

There’s a mercifully brief appearance from a new character, Les’ brother Gerard, a priest with an appetite for young men, while Sandy Stone delivers a tragi-comic monologue from beyond the grave. Part two is, naturally and wisely, devoted entirely to Humphries’ most treasured creation, Dame Edna Everage.

Edna’s “tough love” barbs are as caustic as ever (the front row, her own offspring and The Lion King get it firmly in the neck), but there’s little of the bitterness towards foreign nationals which besmirches the opening hour. Sir Les’ xenophobia might satirically reflect some Australians’ unease with outsiders, but this crowd gobbled up gags about the Chinese and Poles with a little too much non-ironic relish. Happily, the memory of Edna riding in on an Indian elephant and departing in a sea of joyful gladioli-waving is a more fragrant image to take from this career-ending bash.