Lydia Jenkin is an entertainment feature writer for the New Zealand Herald.

Comedy Review: Barry Humphries, Civic Theatre

Dame Edna 
Everage is 
the star of 
show.  Photo / Steven McNicholl
Dame Edna Everage is the star of the Humphries show. Photo / Steven McNicholl

He's been a comedy favourite for more than 50 years and on Saturday night at a packed Civic Theatre Barry Humphries showed that at the age of 78 he's as perceptive, cutting and hilarious as ever.

The elaborate show roughly follows the three segments indicated in the title - eat, pray and laugh.

It opens with the ever-scandalous Sir Les Patterson presenting something of a cooking show in his intrinsically Australian (or Kiwi) backyard, complete with garden shed, BBQ, and a rugby ball stuck in the gutter of his cottage.

Not to be held back by a bad case of Mexican food poisoning, nor his flying saliva, Australia's most politically incorrect cultural attache is keen to be the next big celebrity chef.

There's a surprise visit from one of Patterson's relatives, and a brief seance and exorcism before the next character arrives - Sandy Stone, the elderly ghost who is keeping an eye on his wife Beryl who's stuck in Sleepy Hollow rest home.

What at first might seem to be pleasantly nutty ramblings are actually full of pathos and poignancy, contemplations on life and death delivered with a light touch.

But the highlight of the show is Dame Edna herself, who arrives on the back of an elephant, delivered into the midst of a Bollywood dance routine, wearing a dazzling blue and silver sari.

Edna is perhaps even more acerbic than we're used to, slaying the suburban lifestyle of the audience and her own celebrity with impressive ease and improvisation, weaving between crowd members in the front four rows for her "prey".

It really was comedy gold, and a delight to witness such an inventive and inspired professional at work.

In a lovely genuine touch, Humphries himself appeared for the encore, thanking the audience and jokingly hoping that we might all return to watch him on his "next farewell tour". If it's anything like the joyful experience of Eat, Pray, Laugh! we'll be queuing up for sure.

Who: Barry Humphries.
What: Farewell Tour: Eat, Pray, Laugh!
Where: Civic Theatre, until next Saturday.

- NZ Herald

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