A Night with Dame Edna

  • Venue: Vancouver Centre for the Performing Arts
  • Date: Until 3 November 2002, 20.00

Reviewer: June Heywood

Dame Edna's opening night was a hoot for the packed audience unless, that is, you were one of her victims. The royal megastar (impersonator Barry Humphries) grilled victims on their homes, clothes, and décor. She pounced on a couple who arrived late asking their names and where they were from. When they replied, "Mount Pleasant," she told them she'd come from Australia and had managed to make it on time. We belly laughed, thanking our lucky stars that we'd arrived on time.

For the benefit of these hapless latecomers, Dame Edna reviewed what they'd missed. She explained about "the Niagara of nonentities" in the orchestra seats and about the "paupers" in the balcony who had to "hang onto the railings with one hand and clap with the other " because they were so high up in the little tucked away igloo of a theatre. Those sitting in the boxes, stage right, were referred to as the "mutes,""people in the ashtrays." The "mizzies" in the second balcony were also mocked.

For more than two hours, this almost 70-year-old persona held a conversation she likened between two people:"one of whom is more interesting than the other." The jokes and stories were off-colour and politically incorrect despite the Dame's belief "that niceness is the only thing that separates us from the animals."

And animals, more accurately dogs, were the loathsome creatures to be found in her lesbian daughter's trailer in Abbotsford. Describing this home, the Dame's voice (accidentally?) drops to the male range with a gross demonstration of a chunder into her dinner guest's napkin. Dame Edna's daughter is unloved, but she revealed in an audience participation song, that "Any friend of Kenny's," her macrame-making son, "is a friend of mine". This was also the encore song.

Wayne Barker ("The Fingers on the Keyboard") accompanied Dame Edna and the "Gorgeous Ednaettes" (Teri DiGianfelice and Michelle Pampena) on the grand piano with rippling notes and jazzy fillers. The high-kicking dancers were a lovely counterpoint to the Dame's clumsy gallops.

The production is first rate. The backdrop is appropriate--midnight blue and studded with stars. The costumes are outrageous, and the lighting is spot on. The only fault I could find in "this show that really, really cares" was when Edna rambling lost her bearings just before the "fifteen-minute pause for reflection."

Dame Edna/Barry Humphries was indeed "born with a special gift," not just "the ability to laugh at others' misfortunes." Both character and person have the ability to sweep an audience into eating a salad on stage, waving gladioli, and singing "Stick up you glad, and thrust, thrust, thrust" or participating in a phone conversation amplified for everyone to hear.

See this show. It's hilarious.

© 2002, June Heywood