REVIEW: Eat, Pray, Laugh: Barry Humphries Farewell Tour – King’s Theatre, Glasgow



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Bawdy, bold, loud, lecherous, lewd, the adjectives are running out to describe Barry Humphries’ farewell tour. Humphries is definitely one of a kind and it will be rare to see his like again, so it is with a mixture of joy and sadness that the audience gathers to bid farewell to a performer who has been part of the British comedy scene for nearly 60 years.

Very much a show of two halves: the first a farewell to the lesser known Sandy Stone (more of whom later) and the world’s most famous cultural attaché Sir Les Patterson. Sir Les, now retired, whether forcibly or not we’ll never know, is now exploiting the current Australian culinary obsession by recording a pilot for his own cookery show Les Get Cookin’, aiming to be Australia’s answer to Nigella Lawson (cue a slew of white powder jokes).

It’s with trepidation that the audience spies the fully working barbecue in the corner of the set. Exploiting audience harassment to its fullest, two unsuspecting ‘volunteers’ are part of the most stomach-churning display of the culinary arts you’re ever likely to see, there are: spits, ‘trouser trumpets’ galore, frequent trips to the onstage ‘dunny’ and general misbehaviour as he creates his culinary signature dish, rissoles. Musing on the state of the modern world as only Sir Les can, there were as many appalled as there were tickled by the display of racism, sexism and just about every other ‘ism’ you can think of. When we’re also introduced to Sir Les’ electronically tagged, priest, brother Gerard whose sexual predilections become clear as his tag lights up like a Christmas tree as he approaches the youthful male pianist, it is almost a step too far; to his credit, Humphries only takes the skit so far and manages to turn it into a social commentary on the recent well-publicised events in the Catholic church. The whole endeavour also highlights that only a performer of the stature and experience of Humphries could possibly get away with most of this.

In stark contrast, Sandy Stone is a change of pace and tone. Humphries uses the gentle, deceased oldie who has been “keeping a low profile” since his cremation, to deliver a biting commentary on the current state of the care of the elderly. As Sandy talks about his wife’s ‘care’ at the hands of the “wellness team” it’s a fine line for the audience between laughing and crying at the unfortunate and all too relatable and thoroughly on the mark, truth of it all.

The second half opens with ‘housewife gigastar’ Dame Edna transported onstage on a sparkling, glitter-strewn, life-sized elephant and it’s at this point the show really starts to shine, both literally and metaphorically. Edna makes it clear that she’s a changed woman, recently returned from a life-changing visit to an ashram, she’s on a mission to preach the message “eat, pray, laugh”. Humphries does what he does best, striking terror in the hearts of the captive audience. Reminding us that Edna doesn’t ‘pick on people’, she ‘empowers’ them, she banters with the ‘paupies’ in the cheap seats; seamlessly weaves some local anecdotes into the repartee; delivers her own brand of tough love to her adoring public and generally has the audience in tears. The only gripe would be that there just wasn’t enough Edna.


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