That’s not a woman. It’s a man, baby!
It’s hard to describe the performer who stands at the edge of the National Theater stage. Barry Humphries, who created the role of Dame Edna nearly years ago, may remind you of that overly flamboyant Jewish woman who pinched your cheek at your bar or bat-mitzvah.
She (we’ll use “she” instead of “he”) has large purple hair, an ornate pink dress and lots of criticism aimed at individual members of her audience.
No, it’s not a giant pink marshmallow. It’s well-known Australian comedian Dame Edna, who some may remember from her guest role on “Ally McBeal” last year.
She is currently performing an exclusive engagement at the National Theater. This is quite a deviation from the theater’s past shows this season, which have included huge, large-cast musicals like “Les Miserables” and “Man of La Mancha.”
So, can she alone fill the National Theatre stage for two and a half hours? Needless to say, to do a one person show well is quite a feat. Other one-person shows, such as Alice Ripley’s “Tell Me on a Sunday,” usually last just over an hour. Dame Edna, on the other hand, is able to entertain the audience until 10:25 p.m.
Dame Edna presents herself as an over-the-top, lovable performer. Or, as she puts it, an “old-fashioned megastar.”
She seems to define that unforgettable onstage personality that comes along so rarely.
The show generally consists of Dame Edna making fun of the audience, although a few jokes and songs are canned.
She describes one senior citizen as “sedated” and mocks another woman for her “molestation protection.”
In the opening of Act II , she describes the activities of her homosexual son and declares that “any friend of Kenny is a friend of mine.” She also notes how many “friends of Kenny” are in Washington.
Toward the end, she invites two people up to the stage for dinner and makes random phone calls in front of the audience, points of Act II that seem a bit tedious and unnecessary.
It may have been smarter to cut the whole 20-minute segment out of the show, although you’re not likely to see that sort of segment at any other show in your lifetime.
On the whole, however, Dame Edna is able to keep the attention of a packed-theatre, something many stand-up comedians fail at doing.
By the end of the show, the entire audience is clapping, swaying and waving long-stem flowers.
Should you go to see it, there are a few things to remember. For one, all those who sit in the first two rows are bound to become the butt of her jokes and participants in a Halloween-style fashion parade toward the end. However, all those who choose to sit in the balcony will be referred to as the “paupers” who couldn’t afford to buy orchestra seats.
“It’s steep up there,” Dame Edna warns. “Cling on!”
The show is an experience. It’s loose, fun and likely to make you laugh every five to 10 seconds. It represents a mix of the theatrical hilarity evident in Broadway shows like “The Producers” and genuine stand-up comedian spontaneity.