Interview with Barry Humphries: The Creative Genius Behind Dame Edna

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Barry Humphries brings Dame Edna back to the US for her “Dame Edna’s Glorious Goodbye, The Farewell Tour”. Barry created Dame Edna in 1955 and has been the world’s stage and screens by storm ever since. The tour makes the US premier performance at the Moore Theatre in Seattle, January 15th-18th. Don’t miss the amazing show! Get your tickets here.

equality365.comED: Since this is your “friend” Dame Edna’s farewell tour, are you working on any other projects?
BH: Yes, I am working on several books and things. I always do several things at once. I have done this Farewell show at the Palladium in London, as well as all over England, Scotland and my home country of Australia. Now I am bringing to the United States. I am rather happy to say that I have a following in these three territories. I think there are a few people in Seattle that will be rather pleased to see Edna again. I would like to report that right now, while speaking with you, I am sitting in the countryside outside of Sydney, Australia in warm sunny weather. In less than a week, I am going to be freezing cold and a little damp while visiting you. Never mind, I think Seattle is pretty nice anytime. I am looking forward to it very much.

ED: Other than Dame Edna, what has been your favorite character to portray?
BH: My favorite character, which you won’t see at the show but I could do it for you in private, is the man called Les Patterson. He is an Australian politician and diplomat. He is very fat and always drunk. He has bad teeth and unfortunately a rather over-developed pelvic area. It is a bit apparent; sometimes something can be seen twitching in that area beneath his powder blue trousers. This causes great excitement among certain members of the audience. The twitch often happens when Les is talking about subjects dear to his heart like alcohol and women. He is a very relaxing character to portray. He is extremely rude but as you may realize by now that I am a very polite well brought up person. So it is therapy to play Les. Then I think acting is therapy for most of us in the profession. We are expressing something deep down in our own nature, whether we like it or not. I never thought when I invented the character of Edna in 1955, that I would be doing that character for more than a week. Here I am announcing a major tour of the United States almost sixty years later.

ED: Do you still paint quite a bit?
BH: I do! I do! I am a very enthusiastic amateur painter. I am a very good amateur painter. I have exhibitions and sold work. I paint mostly landscapes but I am pretty good at portraits as well.

ED: How did you come about playing the part of the Great Goblin in “The Hobbit”?equality365.com
BH: Well, it was an extraordinary experience for an actor. I am a character actor I suppose. I began my career in the theater, the straight theater. Well, if any theater can be called straight. I don’t really think any of them are come to think of it. I knew Peter Jackson, this New Zealand genius. He asked me if I wanted to be in this “Hobbit” movie. It was a bit different when I went to the studio. Surprisingly, you don’t actually act with other actors. You stand in a room against a green screen and the character is sort of imposed on you through the camera. It all happens inside of the camera. It is not like traditional acting at all. It takes a lot of getting used to. For example, I didn’t have to sit and get made up in costume for the part. They made a doll of the Great Goblin a grotesque doll. They photograph the doll and the camera remembers it. Then you sort of inhabit it. It is quite impossible to understand.

ED: Is Edna’s son Kenny coming out on this tour?
BH: Edna’s son Kenny has designed some very nice gowns for her. I am pretty sure that Kenny has some friends in Seattle. They might well be readers of your blog.

ED: Is there a role that you haven’t played yet but you would enjoy?
BH: There are certain classical roles that I haven’t played. I don’t think that I am going be cast as Hamlet, nor would I wish to be. There are some Shakespearian parts I would like to do but I really think my place is in comedy. I discovered this as a student actor in a production in “Twelfth Night”, which is a wonderful play. Well, I had to wear black tights and I always felt like someone in the audience was chuckling at me. So, I knew it was my legs that they were laughing at, so when I came on stage I would immediately duck behind the furniture as quickly as possible. I was stand behind tables and chairs. On the third performance, the director took me aside and said ‘What’s the matter with you? You come on stage and you sort of skulk. It is a terrible entrance. Why would you do that?’ I was sure that people were laughing at my legs. He actually told me that I had good legs but I had to learn that I was naturally ridiculous (laughter). I think some people would have considered it an insult but to me it was a revelation. I thought, I am in the wrong branch of the theater. If there is something absurd about my very presence on the stage then it means I am destined for comedy of some type. So that is what I began to do. I began to write my own material because no one had ever written about suburban Australia before. It turned about that suburban Australia is the same as suburban anywhere. I found a kind of place for myself and invented different characters. Edna is only one of many but she is the most enduring character. I do this show for my own pleasure. There has not been a performance that I didn’t enjoy. I think that if I have a good time, you might too. There is a good chance you will as well.

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About Earle Dutton

Earle Dutton is the Chief Blogger and Editor of Equality365.com. He founded Equality365.com in 2013 to provide information about LGBTQ friendly events of interest, and to support LGBTQ entertainers and supportive artists who visit our community. Earle is a successful businessman in the Pacific Northwest has a long history of support for and involvement in, the Northwest LGBTQ community. His personal interests include: music, theater, pets, culinary arts and technology.

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