Monday, 5 April 1999

Barry Humphries Remember You're Out, April 5 1999

At The Princess Theatre
 April 5 1999 for a limited season

Barry Humphries has been away for a long time but he has certainly done his homework. Remember You're Out is topical, accurate and as acerbic as one would expect from the lips of the acid-tongued Melbourne boy who made good in the Queen's own land.

It is an extraordinary feat to be on stage for almost three hours, alone apart from his accompanist, Andrew Ross, and the odd audience member who is dragged up to be dressed up and ridiculed.

You know Les Patterson, Sandy Stone and Edna Everage from the screen but it is mind-boggling to experience Humphries' alteregos live.

Before our little respite (interval) we hear snatches of Humphries history: a childhood song in a sailor suit and the very first Edna sketch performed in 1955 with Noel Ferrier as the straight man. Edna was just as self-centred in this truly suburban incarnation as she offers her sleep-out to the 1956 Olympic athletes. She harps on about axminster, laminex, Blue Hills and her son, Kenny.

Gallipoli veteran, Sandy Stone, RIP, appearing these days as a ghost, provides a prolonged poignant interlude in the hilarity. The monologue incorporates astute social commentary with Sandy's naive old world observations. His reminiscences about his Glen Iris home, now the site of a supermarket, 'neo-Georgian Tuscan townhouses", the local cinema now a Blockbuster video store and his wife Beryl's capacity to survive bereavement unscarred, are sublimely tragi-comic.

The first half closes with a surprise appearance of Les Patterson, determined to clear his name of Sydney Olympic graft. He is grotesque, obscene, lecherous, offensive, sexist and an embarrassment to the Australian image - but we laugh till it hurts. Don't ask me to explain why.

The second half is a phenomenal 80 minutes of mostly ad-libbing by Edna who is no longer a Dame. She wants to be one of the ordinary people. " I'm no different from you. Except I'm rich and famous and you're not."

Edna is rude and patronising to everybody 'in the nicest possible way." She taunts the front rows, lowering their already buried self-esteem. While phone-ordering take away meals for a couple even Edna was disarmed by the phone waitress's response to "This is Edna Everage." "Who?", the waitress squeaked.

There are gladdies, silly songs with witty rhymes, frocks, wigs, grimaces and sneers. Edna is a perfect blend of glee and malice. The show's a treat.

By Kate Herbert

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