Barry Humphries: Look At Me When I’m Talking To You: Palace Theatre, Manchester, 1995
Pantomime: Dick Whittington: New Wimbledon Theatre, London, 2011
Rob Brydon Probes Barry Humphries: London Palladium, London, 2019
Australian master of humour and satire Barrie Humphries is most famous for playing alter-egos Dame Edna Everage, Sir Les Patterson, Sandy Stone and other characters on television and stage. In 1959, he moved from Australia to London and appeared in West End shows such as Oliver! He became a prominent figure of the British comedy scene alongside other greats such as Spike Milligan, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore.
I first saw Humphries live on stage performing his tour at the Palace Theatre, Manchester in 1995, and then starring in the Pantomime Dick Whittington at the New Wimbledon Theatre, London in 2011.
In his 1995 tour Look At Me When I’m Talking To You, the first half saw the Australian cultural attaché, Patterson deliver a glorious trademark drunken monologue. Humphries also performed as a much more serious character, the enduring suburbanite Sandy Stone. But it was his most popular and funniest character Dame Edna that took over the second half of the show. With understated glamour from the housewife superstar, after making a grand entrance, Everage targeted the audience showing no remorse and most memorably ringing a couple’s mobile phone to check that the baby-sitter was ok. The audience were treated to a celebrated combination of despair, showmanship and biting humour that was exceptionally funny and proved a theatrical success.
I watched Humphries being interviewed for two hours by brilliant Welsh comedian Rob Brydon at The London Palladium in April 2019. Humphries’ career was a constant delight to listen to and it was fascinating to learn about how his greatest creation Dame Edna Everage began life as a suburban Melbourne housewife to the formation of his other great character the Australian Cultural Attaché Sir Les Patterson. Stories included detailed performances at Peter Cook’s establishment club in the 1960s at the beginning of his career to a brilliant executed embarrassing tale of performing at the Lord Taverners which was loved by the audience. Throughout the evening classic clips were played from Humphries’ comedy heroes including The Marx Brothers, Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy, Pete Cook and Dudley Moore, Gavin & Stacey (featuring Brydon) and Little Britain. To many of course, Humphries is a comedy hero and genius with an extremely successful career which contains some amazing stories that were told during the evening with a reveal at the end that at the age of 83, he may well indeed come out of retirement and revive Dame Edna on stage one more time, which he did for a farewell tour in 2012.
Humphries sadly died in 2023 aged 89 years old and was a true original, a brilliant raconteur and a comedy genius.