And There’s More Theatre Memories – November 1978 to July 1979

Lots of Student productions here so I’ve doubled up this selection to twenty shows!

  1. Vandaleur’s Folly – 7:84 Theatre Company at the Oxford Playhouse, 17th November 1978.

image(598)7:84 was an influential and creative socialist theatre company whose name derived from the fact that 7% of the population owned 84% of its worth – or at least did in 1966, I expect it’s even less evenly distributed today. This touring production came under the 7:84 England banner, the company ceasing in 1984 after it lost its Arts Council grant, although 7:84 Scotland continued for another 20 odd years. Vandaleur’s Folly was written by John Arden and Margaretta D’Arcy and was based on the Ralahine Co-operative Commune set up in Ireland in the 1830s, but also propounded arguments for the British withdrawal from Ireland. I can remember very little about it, apart from the fact that it made me feel very trendy and studenty.


  1. Night and Day – Phoenix Theatre, London, 25th November 1978.

image(601)During that first university term, my friend Rob and I decided to take some of our new friends, Mike, Kevin and Doug, into London for the weekend, and part of the treat was to see this new play by Tom Stoppard. image(602)It was a satire on the British News Media (some things never go away) mixed with the concerns of a post-colonial era. I remember it being very clever, very funny and very erudite – Stoppard at his best. It starred Diana Rigg and John Thaw, who were both superb; the cast also included Upstairs Downstairs’ very own Lord Bellamy, David Langton. I’d like to revisit this play some time when the theatres are allowed to reopen!

  1. The Death of Cuchulain and Shadowy Waters – St Hugh’s Players, Oxford, 26th November 1978.

image(617)image(614)Included in my list here because a) I’m still very friendly with some of the production team and b) this was the one and only time that I’ve seen a production that used Japanese Noh masks. One of these cast members is currently the UK Ambassador to Turkey! I never did get on with W B Yeats and this was all very difficult to fathom.


  1. Aubrey’s Brief Lives – Oxford Playhouse, 28th November 1978.

image(616)Aubrey’s Brief Lives is a wonderful opportunity for a character image(615)actor to indulge in some Elizabethan gossip, and this was a superb one-man performance from a young chap who I knew would go on to greater things – and so he did. Nigel le Vaillant was in the year above me at university and we met on the night I went up for interview the previous December – and what a charismatic and fascinating chap he was (and I’m sure still is). He’s primarily known for his TV appearances as Dangerfield.


  1. The Skin of our Teeth – Burton Taylor Studio, Oxford, December 1978.

image(591)image(592)I’m including this OUDS (Oxford University Dramatic Society) production in my list because I’m still close friends with one of the cast! But it’s not a play I particularly relished if I’m honest. A few members of this cast have gone on to do amazing things with their lives!



  1. The Millionairess – Theatre Royal Haymarket, London, January 1979.

image(593)image(594)image(595)I saw this with my friend Rob as we were both Penelope Keith fans (see Donkeys Years a couple of years previously) and she played the central character with natural authority and charm. Better known as the film where Peter Sellers played the Indian Doctor alongside Sophia Loren, this production also featured Nigel Hawthorne, Ian Ogilvy, Angharad Rees and Charles Kay as the Doctor – this time, Egyptian, as Shaw had intended. Enjoyable and traditional, as everything at the Haymarket always was!


  1. A Night with Dame Edna – Piccadilly Theatre, London, 15th January 1979.

image(585)Again I went with Rob and also our friend Wayne (see Oh Calcutta a few years previously) to see Barry Humphries in his most inimitable role, as the irrepressible Dame Edna Everage. He/she was at the height of the character’s prowess, and it was a memorable night of non-stop near-the-knuckle laughter. The first half started with Sir Les Patterson, Australian cultural attaché, at his most repulsively hilarious. I do remember him spotting a couple of latecomers, welcoming them in, getting their names and saying, “I must tell my friend Dame Edna Everage about you” to an audience that exploded half in hysterics and half in sheer sympathy. It was a great show, and I caught Dame Edna again later in the year when she visited Oxford. A comedy legend at his best.

  1. Class Enemy – Oxford Playhouse, 3rd February 1979.

image(587)Anvil Productions’ version of Nigel Williams’ Class Enemy, that had recently enjoyed a successful run at the Royal Court Theatre. Six students in search of a teacher, I remember this as being a fascinating image(574)and strong play given an excellent performance by some very talented young actors. The cast included Peter Lovstrom, who has continued to have a solid acting career, Keith Jayne, who entered financial services, Gary Shail, who has combined acting with a recording career, and Mark Wingett who appeared in The Bill for twelve years. Interesting to note that this play was adapted much later in Bosnia and set in Sarajevo in 2007, with the young adults emerging from the horrors of war.

  1. Bedroom Farce – Oxford Playhouse, February 1979.

image(575)I’d only seen the National Theatre production a little over a year image(576)earlier, but it’s a fun play and it was on locally, so why not? This production was directed by Richard (I don’t believe it) Wilson. I note that among the talented cast was John Alkin, who left acting in the 1980s to set up a spiritual healing centre with his wife Lee Everett Alkin (Kenny Everett’s former wife).

  1. Measure for Measure/Occupations – Oxford Playhouse, 7th & 8th March 1979.

image(577)These two plays, produced by OUDS, ran in repertory for the week, and very strong productions they were too. It was my first time seeing Measure for Measure and I found it really engrossing, and Occupations is the Trevor Griffiths’ play about the Fiat factory occupations in 1920s Italy. I’m sure the works of Griffiths are due a retrospective. Measure for Measure was the first production that I ever officially reviewed; I was working for student newspaper Tributary at the time.

Nigel le Vaillant led both casts. But I was really impressed by a young chap from Wadham who played the foppish Lucio, and I gave him a glowing review. His name was Tim McInnerny – and his Lucio was the forerunner of his characterisation of Lord Percy in Blackadder II. Also in the cast was Radio Active’s very own Helen Atkinson-Wood, Mark Saban (now a psychologist, but for many years a successful actor), Martin Hatfull (one time UK Ambassador to Indonesia), Neal Swettenham (lecturer in Drama at Loughborough University), and a young Helen Fielding, without whom none of us would have heard of Bridget Jones and her diary.


  1. A Chorus Line – Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London, 31st March 1979.

image(581)OK I admit I wasn’t going to write about any more of the Chorus Line productions I saw, but this was the last night of the production’s two-and-three-quarter years’ run and it was my 8th time of seeing it, this time with some friends from university. A very moving experience, as the audience was full of ACL aficionados, and we gave it a stonking reception. My main memory is of Miss Diane Langton unable to leave the stage at the end of What I Did for Love because of its huge reception, her standing there with grateful tears in her eyes. An unforgettable night. However, I have to say, we were very reserved in comparison with the last night of A Chorus Line at the Palladium in 2014. Now THAT was a humdinger!


  1. Deathtrap – Garrick Theatre, London, 5th April 1979.

image(568)Now always known as Ira Levin’s Deathtrap for copyright reasons, this comedy thriller had been packing them in for a few months and it was a show you either loved or you hated. Personally, I loved it, with its awkward twists, image(569)false ending, lies and scoundrelly behaviours; one of those plays where almost nothing is as it seems. A fantastic central performance by Denis Quilley as Sidney Bruhl, but with terrific support from everyone else. Very enjoyable.


  1. Joking Apart – Globe Theatre, London, 11th April 1979.

image(573)image(562)Alan Ayckbourn’s latest comedy had been open for just a month or so, and had a formidable cast including Alison Steadman, Christopher Cazenove, Julian Fellowes and that master (mistress) of the befuddled old lady act, Marcia Warren. It centres on a happy couple who unwittingly cause havoc amongst their friends and relatives. Every bit as enjoyable as you would have expected it to be.

  1. Chicago – Cambridge Theatre, London, 14th April 1979.

image(564)image(565)Yes indeed, this was the West End premiere of that musical that refuses to die and just keeps on coming. I went with my friends Sue and Nigel because she had heard it was sensational. If you see a production of Chicago today, it’s full of showbiz and glamour, all that Fosse choreography and vicious manipulation. But the original Chicago, which had transferred from Sheffield, was a much quieter affair, with choreography by Gillian Gregory and a thoroughly British cast including Jenny Logan as Velma, Antonia Ellis as Roxie, Don Fellows as Amos and Ben Cross (indeed) as Billy Flynn. I’ve always had a problem with Chicago – I hate how it celebrates cruelty and crime; from that point of view it’s the complete opposite of A Chorus Line which celebrates everything that’s good about people. It ran for 600 performances, but when it came back next time round, it was a much more erotic and scintillating affair.

  1. The Observer Oxford Festival of Theatre 1979 at the Oxford Playhouse, 1st, 7th, 8th and 11th May 1979.

image(566)I saw four of the productions in this festival; one is on the shortlist for the worst thing I’ve ever seen, one was absolutely brilliant, and the other two I can’t remember at all. Alas I have no recollection of The Fool’s Theatre Company’s production of The Fall of the House of Atreus, or of the Experimental Theatre Club (of which I was a member)’s Princess Ivona. I loved – and reviewed – the Fool’s Company’s double bill of Salome and Steven Berkoff’s East (I had dropped into a rehearsal a couple of weeks previously and interviewed the director) – I think East is one of the funniest and most inventive plays ever. Kim Wall and Mark Heap have gone on to have sterling acting careers.

image(552) Vying for the biggest disaster ever was the Sherman Theatre Company’s production of Othello, with Edwin Kandiwiya Manda, Artistic Director of the National Dance Theatre of Zambia, in the title role. Mr Manda enunciated the part beautifully throughout, but with exactly the same intonation and expression for every line. When Othello sends Desdemona off so that he can agonise over her fidelity, he says the line: “Farewell, my Desdemona. I’ll come to thee straight.” With Mr Manda’s execution (and I use the word advisedly) of this line, it became “I’ll COME to thee…… STRAIGHT” as if explaining the direction and velocity with which his private parts will invade hers. One of those plays were you were literally shaking with suppressed hilarity from the start but you had to leave at the interval in order to protect your own self-esteem.

  1. Hamlet – Oxford Playhouse, 24th May 1979.

image(554)image(555)Another student production, Claudius was played by Dougal Lee, from my college, and who is still a mainstay of the Pitlochry Theatre Company, Hamlet was Simon Taylor, that chap Tim McInnerny was First Gravedigger and Fortinbras, and there are other names there I recognise from other student productions.


  1. Every Good Boy Deserves Favour – Oxford Playhouse, 31st May 1979.

image(556)image(557)A different production from the show I’d seen the previous year in London, directed by Gordon McDougall, amongst whose claims to fame is co-selecting the children in the long-running TV documentary Seven Up. The cast included John Bown, Graham Lines and Mark Penfold, all of whom frequently appeared in TV plays.

  1. Songbook – Oxford Playhouse, 4th June 1979.

image(558)On its pre-West End tryout tour, this fantastic musical lives on in my mind as one of the best shows I’ve seen. Written by Monty Norman (yes the man who wrote the James Bond theme) and Julian More, this show acts as a kind of Side by Side by Sondheim about the songwriting genius, and totally fictional, Moony Shapiro. It traces his career from his early days of East River Rhapsody, through the Second World War where he wrote Bumpity Bump for the very posh-voiced Cicely Courtneidge (although she’s never mentioned), plus the musical Happy Hickory (Finian’s Rainbow by any other name) and various other musical gems.image(550) One of my favourite songs is the extremely unPC Nazi Party Pooper sung by a furious Hitler at his piano, annoyed that his Berlin Olympics have been ruined by the success of Jesse Owens. Inappropriate for today for all sorts of reasons, but it’s a very clever song. The cast of Anton Rodgers, Gemma Craven, Bob Hoskins, Diane Langton and Andrew C Wadsworth (whom I told 25 years later that I had enjoyed this show so much) were all on brilliant form. I’d love this to be revived.

  1. She Would if She Could – Oxford Playhouse, 15th June 1979.

image(608)image(607)George Etherege’s Restoration Comedy was given a masterful production directed by Jonathan Miller and starring Paul Eddington and David Firth. Crammed with brilliant performances and marvellous comic business this was a top class show from start to finish. I absolutely loved it.


  1. Flowers for Algernon – Queen’s Theatre, London, 5th July 1979.

image(613)image(612)image(609)For the Dowager Mrs Chrisparkle’s birthday, we went to see this short-lived show (the introduction of VAT to the price of theatre tickets knocked a few productions into financial chaos) but it was sensational, and is probably still my second favourite production of all time after A Chorus Line. Daniel Keyes’ famous story about the young man treated with a drug to bring him out of his learning difficulties into the realms of a high achiever, only for the drug to fail and for him to revert to his previous state, was turned into a most moving musical by David Rogers and Charles Strouse, and gave Michael Crawford his (in my humble opinion) best role ever as Charlie. Cheryl Kennedy was also magnificent as the doctor who enters into a relationship with him. I defy you to listen to the song Whatever Time There Is and not blurt out into uncontrollable tears. But the whole score is terrific. This is another fantastic show that I’d love to see again.

Thanks for accompanying me on this rather lengthy theatrical reminiscence. Tomorrow it’s back to the holiday snaps, and I is for Iceland and a chilly trip in March 1998. Stay safe!

Review – Ceri Dupree, Fit For A Queen, Royal and Derngate, Northampton, 7th February 2015

Fit For A QueenFor the first time in many years, last Christmas we missed out on seeing the Royal and Derngate’s panto – Peter Pan, starring Joe Pasquale. Shame, because I love a good panto, but there were other shows out there that we wanted to see more – and, sadly, you can’t see everything. The dame for that production was played by Ceri Dupree, and, from what I’d read, he was brilliant. So I was very pleased to see he was bringing his one-man show to Northampton, so we could see first-hand what we’d missed.

I had no particular expectation of what the show would be about. I knew Mr Dupree was a female impersonator – I’d seen comparisons made with Danny La Rue – but I also thought there might be a touch of the Ennio Marchetto about him. Mrs Chrisparkle and I saw Mr Marchetto in Oxford a few years back and his rapid impersonations of a series of women in one show was just sensational. But it was very short! All over in about 50 minutes, which, when you sit in the centre of the front stalls at the Oxford Playhouse, is the equivalent of the time it takes to get to your seat and to get out again at the end.

Tina TurnerWell there’s hardly any similarity between them. Mr Marchetto does about a hundred women in considerably less than an hour and never says a word, miming to original recordings. Mr Dupree does 14 (I think) in three hours, and extends many of them into hilarious monologues – or indeed dialogues with the audience. His skill as a vocal impersonator is equally as strong as the way he captures each of these ladies’ appearances. One word of warning though; you may have taken your kids to see him in panto, and they probably loved him, so you might feel there would be plenty for children to enjoy in this show. As far as costumes and glamour are concerned, that might well be the case! However, Mr Dupree’s act is decidedly on the blue side, and I expect there were some very interesting next-day conversations to be had in the households of several families who took their youngsters to see Fit For A Queen. As a rule of thumb, I’d say, if they need a booster seat to see the stage, it’s a bad idea.

Saturday night’s divatastic smorgasbord in the delightfully intimate setting of the old Royal theatre fell into two halves. Before the interval, some international superstars graced our stage, from the elegantly divine to the downright weird. After the interval, we celebrated Cool Britannia, with homegrown talent both meek and magnificent, plus a couple of dashes of royalty. I’ll get into the details shortly, but first, a couple of observations about the structure of the show.

Dame EdnaIt started off with what looked to me like a fairly old and ropey video of Mr Dupree not being ready for a show – thirty minutes to curtain up and he’s still in bed. Cue for some Benny Hill-style fast action film that gets him up, gets washed and dressed, and eventually arriving at the theatre on time. Except of course, that it wasn’t the theatre that we were all at, it was somewhere else, filmed a long time ago. I don’t think it contributed anything to the show at all, apart from making it start a bit later than it should have done; and when you’re starting at 8pm and it’s not all over till 11, maybe we could have done without that. Secondly, unlike the aforementioned Mr Marchetto, Mr Dupree is not a quick-change artist. He’s no slowcoach, but it’s not instant transformation either. He needs a few minutes between each character to prepare. In the first half, this time was taken up by videos that were meant to give us a clue as to who his next portrayal would be. To be honest, this was a bit boring, and actually made the time we were waiting for the next act to feel longer than it really was. In the second half, this was replaced by clever lighting behind a screen showing him actually changing from one outfit to the next, in silhouette. This served as a much better entr’acte, as a) it’s more intriguing to observe and b) you can guess much more accurately how much longer you’re going to have to wait.

Marlene Dietrich (really)On to the show then. We kicked off with Zsa Zsa Gabor (who, I discovered, celebrated her 98th birthday the day before the performance), an excuse for a stunning evening dress – and to be honest, there’s no expense spared on the costumes, wigs, accessories etc throughout the show – who told us a little of her Hollywood lifestyle, her sexual appetite and a run-down of her nine husbands. It’s a very funny and pretty damn accurate impersonation, with some knock-out material, very much à la Joan Rivers. You couldn’t get a greater contrast with Zsa Zsa than with our next star, the legendary Nana Mouskouri, all trademark specs, flicky hair and ghastly 70s summer patterned dress. Sitting in the third row of the stalls, we were always likely to be picked on to some extent in this show, but largely got away with it, Miss Mouskouri simply noting that my glasses were a little like hers. Phew, that was a close one. Mr Dupree is devastatingly good at interacting with the audience as the lady a few seats to our right discovered, while he interrogated her on her flicking activities. Another Grande Dame appeared in the shape of Marlene Dietrich, (I can still only think of her in terms of how my dad used to call her Marlene Dirtybitch) Mr Dupree adopting a brilliantly superior and bored expression whilst delivering some more first rate material. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the joke about the stamp collector. The late Denis Quilley did a memorable Dietrich in the original production of Privates on Parade – but Mr Dupree’s version is equally as good. Look! I’ve got a signed programme of Marlene Dietrich’s cabaret show at the Bristol Hippodrome in 1965.

HRHNext was probably the comedy highlight of the evening – Dame Edna. Vocally perfect, Mr Dupree really gets her twisted, condescending smile to a tee – he and Barry Humphries are probably about as quick-witted as each other. It wasn’t long before Dame Edna had engaged many of us in embarrassing conversations, but most notably Patricia, who squirmed as he enquired about her bedroom at great length in order to appreciate the colour co-ordination (burgundy and cream, as it happens), and Audrey, who became the butt of so many jokes about twilight years and carers – she was a real good sport. Typical Dame Edna.

The next three acts were more musical homages than character scenes. A monstrously over-wigged Tina Turner gave us her Private Dancer, a wacky overblown schoolgirl of a Bjork treated us to It’s Oh So Quiet (personally I’ve always preferred Noisy Smurf’s version), and we finished the first half with a very staid and dignified Edith Piaf, regretting rien. We then took to the Merlots, spending the interval still laughing over Dame Edna’s escapades and observing the families desperate to talk to their children about Something Else.

Camilla P-BBack for the second half and we were graciously entertained to a Royal audience with Her Majesty the Queen, who had kindly accepted Mr Dupree’s invitation to make a little speech. It was a very affectionate, if not that respectful, impersonation. However, any cap doffing was trumped by our next guest, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, with thighs like gammons and the glitziest hunting jacket. Given the fact that we don’t often see her interviewed or know that much about her, Mr Dupree has been able to let his imagination run riot here and come up with a genius comic cameo; irreverence personified, completely hilarious.

Shirley BasseyWhilst his international ladies feature glamorous older ladies like Zsa Zsa Gabor and Marlene Dietrich, his Brits are perhaps not quite so glamorous. Our next blast from the past was Gladys Pugh from Hi-De-Hi. That was the first comedy series from the Jimmy Perry/David Croft stable that didn’t do it for me, so I never followed the escapades of the Yellowcoats, but I could still appreciate Mr Dupree’s version. Our Gladys was required to provide a poetry recital (cue for lots of rude double entendres) and the camp quiz (cue for even more rude double entendres). Then we were back in the more familiar glamorous environment of Shirley Bassey, all grand gestures and fabulous frock, and then someone whom I can barely remember ever seeing on TV, and certainly I’ve never seen anyone imitate them, Dorothy Squires. I seem to remember having a recording of her singing For Once In My Life when I was a kid. Only by doing a little online research do I now realise that Mr Dupree’s performance must have been a parody of her doing Say It With Flowers (a single with Russ Conway, apparently). From memory I think it was a really good visual impersonation – but I can’t help but think that she would mean very little to most people watching, and maybe it’s time to retire her from the act?

Grande DameKeeping with the Welsh theme (Mr Dupree is a Swansea lad), our next artiste was another fairly long-forgotten singer, Mary Hopkin, although I gather she is still active and performing, just not with much big publicity. It’s always a delight to be reminded of Those Were The Days, even if it wasn’t taken entirely seriously. But I must admit I was a little taken aback by his final star – Amy Winehouse. It’s a skilful impersonation, and there was plenty of humour in the performance, but I’m not entirely comfortable with seeing a presentation of this gifted, troubled and now dead young lady, hobbling around the stage clearly stoned. Mrs C didn’t feel it was inappropriate; maybe I’m a bit over-sensitive.

Ceri DupreeAnd finally, in the best Mike Yarwood tradition (and indeed as Barry Humphries did at the end of his recent tour), Ceri came out as himself for one final number and a very warm set of thank-yous to the various people who assisted him during the course of the evening, which we felt showed he must have been very nicely brought up. He’s a very talented performer, a great female impersonator, very quick witted with the audience, and all in all it was a very entertaining show. Just don’t bring your little kids or maiden aunts!

Review – Barry Humphries, The Eat, Pray and Laugh Tour, Milton Keynes Theatre, 23rd October 2013

Eat Pray LaughThe first night (definitely) of Barry Humphries’ farewell tour (allegedly) took place in the distinguished and elegant surroundings of the Milton Keynes Theatre. That’s a sentence that looks unlikely on many levels. But it’s true; for Mrs Chrisparkle and I were amongst the glitterati lucky enough to attend that sumptuous occasion. I’ve seen Barry Humphries just once before, in “A Night with Dame Edna” at the Piccadilly Theatre, circa 1979 if I remember rightly. I went with a couple of school/university friends and I have to say it was one of the funniest evenings at the theatre I can remember. The show started with a substantial address by the Australian cultural attaché Sir Les Patterson; then there was a brief sketch with retired soldier Sandy Stone; and after the interval, a lengthy assault by Dame Edna Everage, to include devastating humiliation of the audience and a mass gladioli rally.

Sir Les PattersonAnd this time round? Structurally, not much has changed. The main difference is that Mr Humphries has now surrounded himself with four good looking dancers and a pianist, who all help to keep the show running along nicely. We find ourselves in Sir Les Patterson’s garden, where he is about to create a pilot for his new TV cooking show. Retired from politics now, but still very much in the media glare, Sir Les has lost none of his persuasive charm where it comes to the ladies, with his tasteful summer clobber and uninhibited personal habits. You’ll be delighted to know that both the barbie and the dunny form part of the routine. Woe betide anyone who foolishly books seats within the front few rows of a Barry Humphries show. You will get involved! Suffice to say Sir Les has a few tricks up his sleeve and some absolutely side-splitting anecdotes. The punch line to the “peanut in the ear” routine is as comedy genius as it is unexpected.

Sandy StoneThrough artful means we also get introduced to Sir Les’ brother Gerrard – a very nice coup de theatre – and by a bizarre and complex way (I think Dame Edna would term it “spooky”) we see the return of Sandy Stone. If this were a routine on Strictly Come Dancing, Craig Revel Horwood would have described the transition from Gerrard to Sandy as “somewhat clunky, darling.” My memory of Sandy Stone from 1979 was that he was a rather nondescript character who created a bit of a “down” between the jollities of the two main comic creations. So when he appeared in this show I was rather expecting the comic atmosphere to ebb away. But actually, this was a most beautiful and touching comic/tragic monologue, superbly delivered, and you would have to be a very hard-hearted person not to have warmed to the old feller. It is completely different from what went before and what comes after, but for me it stood out as a truly stunning vignette, with a really sweet, moving ending.

Dame Edna EverageAfter the interval Pinot Grigio, we get treated to near on ninety minutes with la Grande Dame herself. Long past her 1970s Housewife Superstar persona, she is now virtually a deity. And indeed, Dame Edna has just returned from being spiritual in India, so now she is a self-styled mystic guru with special healing powers to renew the flagging marriages of sad people from Milton Keynes (or in this case, Luton). Delightfully taking us through hilarious anecdotes and reminiscences, and above all interacting with the audience members (a few of them somewhat unwillingly, I wonder why) she continues to do what she does best. Yes, there are a few rough round the edges comedy songs; yes, she still takes the mickey out of the elderly and the coiffurely-challenged. Slightly surreally, Mrs C and I were both reminded of Julian Clary in his Joan Collins Fan Club days; Dame Edna could just as easily started rifling through peoples’ handbags or commenting that they get their hair done by the council. But she didn’t; as her signature song goes, it’s probably because of her “niceness”. A comic creation supreme matched by a comic performance sublime.

Dame Edna all EasternMr Humphries is 79 now, but still has an extraordinarily quick wit and the physical stamina to be on stage for the best part of two and a half hours. Once Dame Edna has dispensed with the legendary gladdies we get some computer generated video footage reminding us of all Mr Humphries’ comic creations, and to the most rousing reception I have heard for a very long time, Mr Humphries himself comes on for a final bow – all velvet jacket and dashing fedora. I can’t remember him ever before appearing as himself to finish off a Dame Edna show, almost providing us with a legal notice, the ocular proof, that she doesn’t really exist. No matter, there was something strangely emotional about that curtain call. Maybe it really is going to be his farewell tour. Maybe?

Dame Edna all featheryThis was the first night of the tour, so could probably be counted as a “preview”, and there were a couple of slightly ragged edges to the presentation which I’m sure will quickly get ironed out. Press night is in November during his Christmas stint at the London Palladium, and the show is touring the entire country between now and March. It’s an incredibly funny night at the theatre and if you’ve never seen Sir Les or Dame Edna live – this just might be your last chance to do so; you won’t regret it.

Photographs from – the tour details are all there too.