Dame Edna: Back with a Vengeance!
Also see Susan's review of The Heiress
How can a mere reviewer do justice to the force of nature that is Dame Edna Everage? Dame Edna: Back with a Vengeance! brings the “incomparable international housewife, megastar and guru” to Washington for only two weeks at the National Theatre, and (as she would be the first to say) audiences should hurry to bask in her magnificence.
Dame Edna, the alter ego of Australian actor and writer Barry Humphries, has become a genuine international phenomenon. With her lavender bouffant hairdo, her many-branched, rhinestone-trimmed glasses, and all the sensitivity of a rhinoceros, she is every well-meaning, sharp-tongued busybody, exaggerated to at least the tenth power. In her words: “I don’t pick on people; I empower them.”
For her Washington engagement, Dame Edna has brought out the political barbs, singing about being “a better shot than old Dick Cheney” and sharing confidences about her dear, dim friend in the White House. But these aren’t her main targets; as she explains, “It’s my audience that’s my source of material.” That becomes her mandate as she merrily insults the “paupers” in the balcony and refers to empty seats in the orchestra as the “salmon pink plush tombstones” of deceased ticket-holders.
But of course, there’s much more to Dame Edna’s routine than simply sly innuendoes and zany facial reactions (mostly pursed lips or a grimace halfway to being a frown) as she spars with her audience. No, she feels a responsibility to improve the lives of those around her – specifically those unlucky enough to sit in the first few rows.
In the course of the show, Dame Edna questions audience members about their homes (“I’m just like your neighbor, only with a much larger and nicer house than yours”), solicits their shoes for purposes of conducting a psychic reading, and ultimately brings several people onstage to act out a pivotal experience from her own life. And these situations don’t even include the unsolicited marriage counseling she provides to a reluctantly willing couple.
Of course, Dame Edna is not the entire show. Her “master of musick,” Wayne Barker, presides at the piano, tossing off ditties with an ease that can only come from long experience. The cast also includes the Gorgeous Ednaettes, dancers Teri DiGianfelice and Michelle Pampena, who serve as glittering baguettes showing off the central jewel to its best advantage – spangled fuchsia gown and all.
The National Theatre