Expecting an evening of Dame Edna? No, the clue's in the title. Melbourne's housewife superstar does take centre stage for the entire second half, but expect a very different tranche of characters before the interval. Australia's cultural attaché Sir Les Patterson splutters forth, quite literally for those in the stalls, as he shows off some of his barbecue cooking skills. Vulgarity and inappropriateness are the order of the day, which may prove tough for those in the audience who aren't braced for it. Do the audience laugh because they recognise the inanity of the overt racism or because they agree with it - it's hard to tell. Les's reverend brother Gerard is inappropriate in an entirely different way (there's a reason he wears a prison tag) before the backyard scene changes to something unexpectedly ethereal. The tour's website insists that Sandy Stone is "perhaps Humphries' greatest creation", although his ghostly monologue isn't played for laughs, and may kick off several "what are we actually doing here?" conversations in the half time bar.
Dame Edna's shimmering arrival (on the back of an elephant) raises the pitch somewhat. She's found spirituality, that's the underlying theme, although it's a tentative hook all told. Much of the hour and ten is spent insulting the audience, indeed some would say bullying, so sharp is the Dame's wicked tongue. Pay extra to sit at the front of the stalls and you risk total ridicule, if you're very unfortunate. A substantial portion of the show consists of Ms Everage marrying off two members of the audience, a pretence which very much stands and falls on the enthusiasm of the pair chosen. Total success last night, with Barry extemporising brilliantly as the ceremony ended up with a phone call to the groom's mother in Germany. There are songs, there are routines about the family, and there's rather a good joke about a coffee enema. It all ends with gladioli, of course, and a final appearance from the man beneath the make up, smiling and taking his leave of the UK audience.
Edna's eight week run at the Palladium continues until the first week of January, before heading on a two month national tour. I'm not convinced the London show's worth the face value of the ticket (ouch), nor even that this really is his farewell tour. But at 79-pushing-80, and still fresh as a koala, you can only applaud Barry's comic aplomb, possums.