Sunday, August 19, 2012

These charming men: Barry Humphries and Joe Orton

To Auckland last night for the last night of Barry Humphries’ season, and probably the last night of Barry Humphries in Auckland. 

It was a wonderful show and it was lovely to see him resurrecting Sandy Stone whom I don’t think he has performed for years – when he came on stage in his dressing gown, obscured by clouds of smoke, I thought, “What is Steve Braunias doing up there?” Les Patterson’s gay Catholic priest brother was new to me; some of the jokes were old but still funny; Les’s spitting was as impressive and disgusting as ever. The all-singing, all-dancing backing quartet of two hot guys and two hot gals, the Condiments, were terrific too, as were the terrified audience members dragged up on stage. I was sitting on the end of the fourth row from the front and feeling vulnerable until then. 

It wasn’t quite a greatest hits, but partly. The standing ovation after Dame Edna and the Condiments finished their set and tossed the gladioli was well deserved. And then Humphries stepped forward briefly as himself, doffing his hat in the manner of Leonard Cohen, and speaking beautifully. All in all, as Sandy Stone would say, it was a nice night’s entertainment. Peter Craven began his review (not online) of the Australian leg of the tour for the Spectator with:
He has dominated the nation and the world like no other comedian, like no other actor in any medium. How extraordinary it is that some luvvie-ish boy from Melbourne Grammar in the mid-Fifties could take the crumpled suburban idioms of his native Melbourne and turn them into a thing of magic and mayhem so that Edna became an avenging deity of Australian femininity (as black and berserk as a land of misogyny and matriarchy could muster) and Sandy Stone could bleat his mute little circumlocutions and clichés like the voice of a nominal maleness nothing in his society would uphold.  
So – not that they have anything in common apart from savage satire and the alter ego of an Edna – here is playwright Joe Orton in April 1967, interviewed by Eamonn Andrews about his prank of defacing library books: he was sentenced to six months in jail.   Asked about it, he says, “I had a marvellous time in prison.” And yes, the blonde is the wonderful Eva Gabor.  

You can see some of the defaced covers here. Four months later, on 9 August, Orton’s boyfriend Kenneth Halliwell battered him to death with nine hammer blows to the head. Orton was 34. Much, much more about him here.

Monitor: The Age of Uncertainty


Peter said...

Stephen Stratford said...

Wonderful stuff.