When you’re thinking about things to do – often going to gigs or the theatre – you come across things which make you think ‘shall we?’. These are a long way from the ‘must get up at 8am on a Saturday morning and have three laptops at the ready for the on-sale’ moments and the Barry Humphries Farwell Tour was one of these ‘take it or leave it’ things. Given that we were getting tickets for several other things, we decided to go for it – after all , we’ve never seen Dame Edna and she never fails to amuse – and she didn’t.
A night at the theatre is always slightly marred when it involves going to the now very run-down Manchester Opera House and this one wasn’t any different – queues to get into the building, queues to walk down a corridor, queues for the loos and no sign of a queue, but just an unruly and uncomfortable scrum, at the tiny bar. Anyway, settling in for the first half Les Patterson was funny enough – some complete belly laugh moments like his reference to new character Gerard Patterson (a very new Humphries creation and the ‘theatrical’ brother of Les) as ‘a v@gina-decliner’ – but then things took a turn. As part of his farewell tour Humphries unearthed one of his earliest characters, Sandy Stone – a hauntingly-pale ghostly figure who has had a life of family tragedy. Whilst this foray into dark humour was a tangent to the ‘in your face’ (literally if you were in the front row) style of Les, it put an enormous dampner on the mood. A bad call Mr Humphries….but at least we’d pre-ordered a whole bottle of interval wine for the two of us, and OMG did we need it!
It’s fair to say that Dame Edna is timeless and Humphries freely admitted trotting out old material and tricks, but it worked as it all seemed so fresh. This is clearly the character where he comes into his own and she hasn’t lost any of the wittiness and edge that has made her a household name across generations (Humphries first donned the purple wig and specs in 1955!). Once the laughter got going pre-interval memories faded (although the ¾ pint of wine each helped too) and it was time for the tried and tested finale – Gladi-waving! Following this, a rather touching final word from the man himself, with some lovely reference to his family connections to Manchester, and we were done.
All in all a mixed bag….’Should we have?’….probably, but once was enough and will definitely give the next Farewell Tour a miss!