Witnessing the first half of Barry Humphries’ feted farewell tour is a little like stepping into a time machine. One which whisks the audience back to a time when jingoism and racism were fair game for comedians, and when jokes about flatulence raised the roof.
Most of this is thanks to Humphries’ infamous Sir Les Patterson creation, a purposefully boorish and offensive reprobate who pumps with ironic pride at being Australia’s cultural attache. But there is a fine line between irony and bigotry, and Patterson’s frequent observations on ‘foreigners’ and immigrants may overstep that line for many.
Another creation, a Dr Evil-ish paeodophile priest with a tag round his ankle, is similarly borderline, with little in the way of charm to redeem the one-dimensional character. Even recently-departed Sandy Stone’s relatively serious monlogue about loss and grief is marred by his unnecessary observations about the corner shop.
Fortunately, the dazzling Dame Edna chases away these shadows in the second half, with a typically caustic, witty and over-the-top explosion of observational comedy and crowd-baiting. Her presence manages to transform the evening into something far more celebratory — and far more entertaining.
Ultimately however, her appearance goes to show that some of Barry Humphries’ creations will be missed a great deal more than the others.
Eat, Pray, Laugh! is at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre until Nov 9th. Further details are available here.