Farewell Possums!

Dame Edna
Dame Edna

I have to let go one of my ongoing theatre dreams.

For years, I’ve fantasised about being picked on by Dame Edna. I’ve got purple hair, I’m from Adelaide, I lean towards mutton-dressed-as-lamb, go to the theatre and read  Eat Pray Love* before a trip to Ubud in Bali: I’m perfect Edna fodder.

But I wasn’t what she was after (and I wasn’t up the front). And she’s on her last tour. Unless Barry forces her back.

Barry Humphries is a unique mind who thankfully decided to use his genius for satire.

Since a meek and patriotic housewife called Edna appeared in 1955, his characters have left us cringing with embarrassed joy as we’ve recognised our relatives and friends and maybe refused to see ourselves in his astute grasp of Australia’s culturally vapid middle class.

The night opens with Sir Les Patterson and a poo joke. And that’s as classy as it gets. Sir Les welcomes us to his backyard in an Hawian shirt, a pair of Crocs and the bulge that made my grandmother blush. He’s no longer our Cultural Attache and thinks he’ll try life as a celebrity chef, so he squishes some Aussie rissoles, makes a good stiff Pavlova sound filthy, sings about how he can live without tumeric but won’t say no to cumin, and there is no one else who can rhyme snow peas with slopies.

Sir Les really is the last who can do it. He’s from a time when racism was funny. It was. I die a little bit every time I remember the jokes I laughed at as a child. We used to laughed with Les and what better farewell than to laugh at an attitude that deserves to be flushed away with his ongoing diarrhoea. And that’s before the jokes about vagina decliners and a son-in-law joke that I thankfully wouldn’t have understood as a child.

Eat, Pray, Laugh
Eat, Pray, Laugh

As we farewell Les, Barry introduces Gerry, a pervy priest who is entranced with Les’s young Balinese pianist, but he’s forgotten as Sandy Stone arrives. I was never a fan of Sandy, but his poignant and unexpectedly moving farewell has left him one of my favourites, who I’ll think of every time I visit friends in Glen Iris or drive past the Essendon airport.

But it’s Edna everyone wants to see.

She always has us at “Hello Possums” and it’s impossible to be disappointed.

She’s gloriously mean, wonderfully self involved and still quicker and sharper than anyone I can think of. No one else could make the colour neutral a highlight of the evening.

Eat, Pray, Love is a book by a middle class woman who travels to countries starting with I to eat and find herself a better shag than the one she left. Its self-indulgence is worthy of our Dame, who had to learn to love herself as much as we love her and brings images like the Dali Lama getting a back, crack and sack and jokes about unfashionable East Ubud. It was nearly worth reading the book to get the jokes.

If you haven’t seen Barry live, you will regret it if you don’t. He’s been one of our greatest for over 50 years. Part of the fun of the live show is that patrons up the front will end up on the stage and if you’re one of the lucky ones, you’ll have a dinner story for life and a polaroid pic to take home and frame. The rest of the plebs just get to wave gladdies.

Eat, Pray, Laugh has nearly finished in home town Melbourne, then it’s off to New Zealand and the Gold Coast before resting up for Adelaide and Perth early next year.

*And yes I am ashamed and refused to see the film.

Anne-Marie Peard

Anne-Marie spent many years working with amazing artists at arts festivals all over Australia. She's been a freelance arts writer for the last 10 years and teaches journalism at Monash University.

Anne-Marie Peard

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