Dame Edna Everage, the grand lady with the wisteria hair and cat-eye glasses, has flown into Toronto on her private jet for the North American leg of her farewell tour. The morning after her hilarious, emotional and standing ovation-inspiring opening night at the Princess of Wales Theatre, one of Daily Xtra’s possums sat down for a quick chat with the man who plays Dame Edna, Barry Humphries.
Daily Xtra: The show really felt historic, like one of those things you really had to see, and would regret it if you didn’t.
Barry Humphries: It may sound a little conceited to say it, but I felt it was a fairly special occasion. Everything worked. I was at first nervous about the size of the theatre, but it is a nice theatre, and I was very worried, because I’ve heard it was threatened by demolition. I gather that’s not going to happen.
But the audience was so keen, weren’t they? So caffeinated.
It seemed like you sort of teared-up at the end, or at least you turned away and brought your hand up to your eyes.
I was rather emotional at the end. It was quite emotional. I hadn’t expected to be affected by the audience, but an audience becomes a friend, in a funny way. They begin as strangers and then intimacy grows. All these people from all these different places and backgrounds coalesce and become one animal, called an audience.
It is a rare thing for you to come out as yourself at the end?
Yes, I’ve never done it before. I just felt a little surprise at the end was a good idea, and I wanted them to see that little brief resumé of a career, that little film. I do a very quick change, though; you must be surprised to see me.
How do you handle your audience interaction? Do you plan ahead for it?
What happens is that, although it’s a one-person show, many members of the audience are fellow actors in it, inadvertently. Because Edna likes to really interact big time, and so she chooses people. In a way, it’s a casting session. I think Edna last night — to my surprise — because sometimes I feel detached from the character, said she comes to see them. They don’t come to see her. And she’s looking around and finally she’s looking for someone to marry. She pretends it’s scientific research, but the person she marries has to be shy. There are always people you see in the audience who want to be in it. Beware of them. It’s the people who don’t. Remember how shy Virginia was last night? Taciturn? She didn’t want to be there.
She was wonderful! Wasn’t she? And, finally, talking to her husband, and we were somehow privy to her private life. Her married life. It was sort of intimate exchanges between her husband and her. And then this very charming Austrian gay man, who Edna conscripted into marriage.