Critics admire Dame Edna's final flourish
''Eat Pray Laugh!'' starring Barry Humphries and his many comic alter egos opened at the London Palladium earlier this week. The farewell tour runs until 5 January at the Palladium before touring
...I think I've laughed louder and longer in his company – and Dame Edna Everage's – than with anyone bar Ken Dodd, so I for one can certainly forgive, and indeed cherish, his juvenile excesses, vulgarity and extreme bad taste ... His second act as Dame Edna is a carnival of crassness, entering on an elephant after a filmed resume of a life in the spotlight from Melbourne housewife to a career in Bollywood movies and celebrity megastar status complete with "upskirt" pap shots on leaving a limo for another glittering gala ... Very few comics are genuinely funny while speaking the unsayable ... but Humphries, like Lenny Bruce or Bill Hicks were in America, is insulated against attack by the verve and brilliance of his literary style, the sheer satirical cleverness of what he does...
...Age has not withered the wit, mischief and bravura showmanship of Barry Humphries ... He has outraged his native Australia over the years, but Oz should be proud of him too. Humphries is a wizard. And when he steps forward at the end to take a bow as himself, having ceremonially laid all his characters to rest in a video montage to the wistful soundtrack of "Wish Me Luck (As You Wave Me Goodbye)", there's a near-unbearable sense of Prospero snapping his staff, of revels now being ended... The evening takes a turn for the unexpectedly moving with a sedentary monologue from the mournful, ghostly Sandy Stone... It's an hour of unalloyed comic pleasure – complete with risqué laughs at the expense of two hapless hand-picked volunteers...
...His new show is a raucous, lewd, politically incorrect affair that confirms just what a rare bird Humphries is: a fine character actor, a comedian who can hold a vast house such as the Palladium in his grip, and a social satirist with a gift for outrage... What is fascinating about Sir Les is that his cartoon grotesquerie allows him to get away with murder. At one point he pointedly inquires, apropos immigration: "Is there anyone in Poland? I reckon it's the Marie Celeste of Europe"... over the years, something of the comic danger has gone from the character and even the pseudo-marriage of two reluctant audience recruits has a faint whiff of Candid Camera about it... Humphries remains, however, an extraordinary performer, an "all-licensed fool" who, like his predecessor in King Lear, uses his motley to tell us uncomfortable truths...
...Barry Humphries' farewell show features special effects, pathos, dancing, vulgarity wit and, at its heart, a 79-year-old legend in a dress ... Dazzling is the only word that springs to mind. Actually 'umbrella' also springs to mind. If you have tickets for the front take cover when Humphries' cultural attache Les Patterson opens proceedings by drooling, expectorating and dribbling over his devotees ... If Edna does retire to cultivate her gladioli back in Moonee Ponds this show is conclusive proof that there really is nothing like this Dame.
...Humphries has the audience convulsed for over two-and-three-quarter hours with a riot of lewd and gloriously dubious comic brilliance. Mentally, he's as alert and pouncing as ever ... Les's cheerfully Neanderthal persona is, of course, the licence for an orgy of political incorrectness and his claim that he wants his rissoles to be a metaphor for multi-culturalism results in some breathtakingly near-the-knuckle xenophobic gags ... It's the least retiring renunciation of the stage you are ever likely to witness. "I'm in my comfort zone up here," she declares, predatory eyes swivelling behind the spangled specs as they rake the far-from-comfortable front rows in search of victims ... After the ritual waving of gladdies, Humphries returned to stage as himself in a blue velvet smoking-jacket and fedora and made us promise that we would join him again on his next farewell tour.