The event might fall short of the hype that The Man Behind the Mask would be a ‘confessional evening – seasoned with highly personal, sometimes startling, and occasionally outrageous stories', but it doesnt seem to matter much. It’s enough just to be in the presence of the legendary Barry Humphries; to feel the charm and warmth he emanates and to marvel at the generations he has entertained with his trademark characters and as the man himself.
He’s still got the wit, humour, comedic timing and ability to ad lib
This latest show, with plenty of video footage of Dame Edna, Sir Les Paterson and even a pop-up of the rare Sandy Stone, is about Humphries himself; a stroll down memory lane, recounting his childhood in Melbourne with many stories about his parents, people who influenced him and his rise to fame before making the brave journey to Europe to start all over again, as he did again when he crossed the pond to the USA. Each move proved highly successful and he established an international reputation as an entertainer. With that came the chance to meet celebrities, politicians and royalty along with invitations to appear on the most prestigious chat shows and be interviewed by the biggest names in the business. More than that he became a chat-show host himself, albeit as Dame Edna, and again the world’s most famous names were honoured to receive invitations. There are two especially amusing excerpts of Donald Trump long before he became president and of Boris Johnson in his earlier days that fill the screen.
He declares the stage to be the place where he feels most at home and despite the size of this one at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley, he makes it intimate as he sinks into the rich leather of his luxurious winged Chesterfield with a huge portrait of himself dominating the room and Ben Dawson at the piano on the other side ready to tinkle away; between them an ornately decorated rug. He wears a different jacket for each half but both are rich ard colourful and only slightly more subtle than the vivid socks he wears that don’t match.
He has an autocue prompt either side of the stage and his movements go between the two, but the need for these doesn’t inhibit the flow of the stories or his engagement with several members of the audience at their expense. He’s still got the wit, humour, comedic timing and ability to ad lib and to deliver those punch lines almost as asides. He says, “I’m rather proud of what I’ve done in my career. It’s constantly surprising, it’s very stimulating and it’s wonderful to look back on, and to look forward to. It’s still going strong, and with a vengeance.”
Now aged eighty-eight it might not be going strong for that much longer, although he does suggest a farwell show amidst the applause at the end of this one! Who knows? Who even thought this current tour would happen? But thousands are clearly grateful he’s back on the road and doing well and are taking the opportunity to see this living legend around the country.