In Love Songs For Sir Les, Barry Humphries bids farewell to his one and only stint as the Artistic Director to the Adelaide Cabaret Festival with an ode to the outrageously disgusting Sir Les Patterson.
Backed by the hard-working and virtuoso Adelaide Art Orchestra, Ali McGregor began the love-fest with a jazzy and appropriately sultry rendition of ‘The Man I Love’ and the audience chuckled. At its conclusion the “Antipodean Falstaff” arrives in signature ‘70s garb (a mess of blow-dried hair, pale blue 2 piece suit, beige shirt, loud orange and brown patterned tie with brown and white platform shoes) complete with 3 gorgeous women in tow (“horn-bags”). From that moment on the laughter wasn’t just uproarious, at times it was downright cathartic and any audience guilt about sexism, racism or homophobia just flew out the window.
Spit and F-words “just slipped out – you know the feeling girls” said Sir Les as he stroked the enormous phallus inside his pants. He reiterated a long story about a visit to Bangkok (a lecherous look at the audience as saliva dribbled down his chin) before continuing the story complaining about the concierge “A stupid little yellow slant-eyed bastard” but while there, he did enjoy the company of a beautiful Thai girl “She had one on her like a mouse’s ear – think about it” He said before touching on his “purple headed warrior”.
Sir Les appeared in-between some fantastic performances by Ali McGregor, Amelia Ryan, Trevor Ashley, The Songbirds and Lady Rizo. Highlights included Amelia Ryan upping the glamour ante with a dazzling L’Wren Scott style (full-length, body-hugging) gown, singing a slick version of ‘New Money’. The buxom Trevor Ashley giving a brassy performance of Shirley Bassey’s ‘Kiss Me Honey Honey Kiss Me’ before ripping off one dress on stage (revealing another) to perform a husky ‘I Want To Know What Love Is’.
Sir Les’ final story about his colonoscopy remarked on the Jenolan caves before telling the audience “Barry’s not a poofter he just gives a very good impression of one” which segued into his ‘Poofters in the Arts’ song (peppered with references to “freckle punchers”, “pillow biters” and lines like “I won’t swap my bodily fluids with a bunch of QANTAS stewards” and “When you’re at a concert hall keep your back against the wall”) which all the poofters in the audience seemed to enjoy more than anyone. Sir Les’ bawdy and base humour ended with the country-rocker styled Harry Chapin song “There’s a lot of Lonely People Tonight”.
It has been mooted that Sir Les was modelled, at least in part, on ex-Whitlam immigration minister Al Grassby but the real tragedy is that features of this slobbering buffoon as portrayed by Humphries are easily recognisable in both State and Federal politicians of the major parties today.
The authentic, satirical genius of Humphries is that you don’t ever see him on stage – remarkably few actors are able to do that in any genre. The character, whether male or female of whatever description, simply takes over at Humphries’ will.
Barry Humphries and his inventions won’t save the world but Australia has (for the majority) become far too austere and sober a place – South Australians in particular need to be reminded society isn’t only for the martinets. This show may have been Love Songs For Sir Les but Australians love their Barry Humphries and so they bloody should.