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Dame Edna Everage and the Rise of Western Civilisation
2018-05-16 10:08:01 by John Lahr
Page Updated: May 16, 2018
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John Lahr is one of the most celebrated critics of the performing arts. Winner of Britain's 1992 Roger Machell Award for the best writing about public performance, Dame Edna Everage and the Rise of Western Civilisation is an insider's account of a great clown and a great act. It takes us backstage at London's Theatre Royal in Drury Lane, with Barry Humphries, and into the weird and wonderful world of his show-stopping creation--Dame Edna Everage.
Humphries is a prodigious comic talent. His copresence in Edna-- a character so real to the public that her autobiography, My Gorgeous Life, appeared on the nonfiction list--actively invites speculation about reality and fantasy, male and female. With her "natural wisteria" hair and her harlequin eyeglasses, Dame Edna was the first solo performer to sell out the most famous theater in England, and she also took the United States by storm, filling theaters from coast to coast. Hilarious and malign, polite and rude, highbrow and very low, the character Barry Humphries inhabits is a bundle of contradictions.
John Lahr, the son of another comic genius, takes us behind the scenes to investigate how a provincial dandy from Melbourne transformed himself into one of the most unlikely megastars of today. In showing the connection between Humphries's comedy and the life it parodies, Dame Edna Everage and the Rise of Western Civilisation goes beyond reportage to an exploration of the nature of comedy, a subject that Lahr has pursued over the years in his acclaimed biographies of Bert Lahr, Noël Coward, and Joe Orton. Richly entertaining and engagingly written, this book is an anecdotal treatise on the nature of comedy and an absorbing inquiry into what makes us laugh.