Just an Ever­age lit­tle megas­tar, pos­sums

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

IT is hard to know who the man in­side Dame Edna Ever­age is th­ese days, as the self-styled megas­tar has clearly out­grown the con­trol of her in­hab­i­tant, Barry Humphries.

This of­ten per­cep­tive film at­tempts to find the per­son be­hind the seem­ingly enig­matic co­me­dian and, in fact, dis­cov­ers a man whose com­plex­ity is echoed dis­con­cert­ingly by the com­pli­ca­tions of our re­la­tion­ship with him. ‘‘ He con­fuses us, he wor­ries us, he an­tag­o­nises us,’’ says his friend Phillip Adams. ‘‘ We’re proud of him yet many of us would cheer­fully throt­tle him.’’

The Man In­side Dame Edna is a lo­cal re­make of a Bri­tish doc­u­men­tary filmed dur­ing Humphries’ 2007 Aus­tralian Back with a Vengeance tour, de­liv­er­ing fas­ci­nat­ing ac­cess to the man and his old­est friends. But the lin­ger­ing por­trait shot fram­ing the ti­tles at the film’s beginning gives the game away.

Turn­ing to the cam­era from his re­flec­tion in a huge, or­nate mir­ror, the as al­ways beau­ti­fully dressed Humphries smiles slyly, sug­gest­ing that he takes a cer­tain de­light in re­veal­ing as lit­tle as pos­si­ble about him­self. He has al­ways been wary of the way wellinten­tioned bi­og­ra­phy can play lurid tricks with the truth.

Yet by the film’s end­ing we un­der­stand all there is to know re­ally, all that mat­ters any­way, about Barry Humphries. The only place where he feels he re­ally be­longs is on the stage.

And if his first in­stinct is to un­der­mine any pro­found at­tempt to un­der­stand his life, once in­side a the­atre he is sim­ply a mas­ter en­ter­tainer get­ting on with the job.

The fi­nal im­age is of Humphries in­side his cre­ation be­fore his ador­ing au­di­ence croon­ing: ‘‘ I look down and

Gives lit­tle away: Barry Humphries in I see such beau­ti­ful peo­ple looking up at me, drink­ing in my words, the faces of ter­ror.’’

The film goes back­stage, watch­ing him warm up and un­lim­ber with two gor­geous back­ing singers ( he’s en­gag­ingly flir­ta­tious for a man of his age), re­vis­its his home in Mel­bourne’s Cam­ber­well, his school, and talks with col­leagues in­clud­ing Adams and film­maker Bruce Beres­ford.

Humphries is can­did about his mother, his ter­ri­ble al­co­holism and his need from child­hood to desta­bilise any es­tab­lished or­der. ‘‘ Even at school I quite liked to star­tle peo­ple,’’ he says. ‘‘ It gave me a feel­ing of iden­tity; oth­er­wise in Aus­tralia you dis­ap­pear, you van­ish.’’

Ac­tors of­ten won­der, as they as­sume so many per­son­al­i­ties for a liv­ing, just which might be their own. But in this charm­ing por­trait Humphries never seems like a man re­mote from him­self. His per­for­mance of Barry Humphries is, as al­ways, con­sum­mate and con­vinc­ing.

He has about him th­ese days the aura of a man who is cer­tainly not ready to have the last laugh. He may be a co­me­dian but Humphries is no one’s fool.

Graeme Blundell

The Man In­side Dame Edna

He’s not every­one’s cup of fava beans with a nice chi­anti, but Bill Granger, pic­tured, has recipes that are of­ten sim­ple, and con­se­quently easy to mas­ter. Join the ge­nial cook as he jour­neys across Aus­tralia to cel­e­brate the di­ver­sity, beauty and cui­sine of our land. There is def­i­nitely no short­age of spe­cial vic­tims out there. Now in its tenth year, this pro­gram does a good job of pro­vid­ing a weekly re­al­ity check on the murk be­neath the sur­face of rou­tine lives. It pulls no punches about the ca­pac­ity of of­ten re­spectable looking peo­ple to abuse oth­ers heinously. And yet it rarely feels ex­ploita­tive. Tonight a perp comes to the sta­tion, a tear­ful wreck. Aged 17, he has fallen in love with his step­brother, a five-year-old. But be­cause he hasn’t yet acted on his in­cli­na­tions, a dilemma for the SVU arises. How can they deal with a crime that hasn’t yet hap­pened? How very strange. Not just that this se­ries-eight episode is as fresh as a daisy ( it aired in the US on Jan­uary 6) but that, just as in , has a new chief of medicine. Tonight she pounces on a woman who has in­vited her­self to use one of the hospi­tal com­put­ers: I’m to keep non-med­i­cal per­son­nel from com­ing back here. I’m chief of medicine.’’ Well I’m chief of slag smack­ing, so I’d keep mov­ing if I were you,’’ ex­horts the up­start.

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