Australian funnyman Barry Humphries is due to take the ultimate Drag Diva on her swansong tour in Australia this spring. His gladiola-wielding alter-ego Dame Edna Everage transcended her way from a cult classic to a global institution in the 1980s and has enjoyed many successful shows both on stage and on television.
The antipodean tour will start at the Canberra Theatre Centre in June before working its way across Australia. He has announced that the show, entitled Eat Pray Laugh as a nod to worldwide bestseller-turned-Julia Roberts movie Eat Pray Love, will be Everage's last, as well as that of his other alter ego Sir Les Patterson. Humphries hopes to take the production both to New York and London to say a proper goodbye to Edna's legions of fans.
Humphries first created the lilac-haired, cats-eye bespectacled character in 1956 but she began life as a drab housewife. In the 1960s as her popularity soared on the UK club circuit her outfits and comments became more and more over the top. She progressed over the years from 'Housewife and Superstar' to 'Megastar' to self-coined 'Gigastar' as her appeal grew. Over the years Humphries satirical creation has been used to comment on everything from politics and class snobbery to celebrity and prudishness. In her 1992 hit tv gameshow Dame Edna's Neighbourhood Watch, Edna's frumpy and mute bridesmaid Madge would rifle through the mortified contestants homes on a big screen as nude photos, underwear and hidden alcohol were unearthed to Edna's disapproving eye and trademark twisted pursed lips.
Other tv shows to Everage's credits include celebrity talkshow The Dame Edna Experience, various entries in the An Audience With... series, Dr Dame Edna Kisses It Better and health spa-set chatshow The Dame Edna Treatment. In 2003 she caused controversy in her Vanity Fair magazine column by responding to a reader enquiring whether they should learn Spanish. "Forget Spanish. There's nothing in that language worth reading except Don Quixote, and a quick listen to the cd of Man of La Mancha will take care of that…Who speaks it that you are really desperate to talk to? The help? Your leaf blower?" Several members of the Hispanic community wrote furious letters to the magazine including actress Salma Hayek denouncing the character a racist and forcing the magazine to print an apology. Humphries later commented "If you have to explain satire to someone, you might as well give up."
Here's hoping that the fabulous Edna does wend her way to the UK. In the meantime why not whet your appetite with upcoming gender-bending musical tribute show Drag Divas at the Arts Theatre this August. After all, there is nothing like a Dame!
Book Drag Divas tickets online now.
[posted by James, 22/03/2012]