TWO Big Egos In A Small Car culture podcasters Graham Chalmers and Charles Hutchinson take their hat off to Barry in Episode 86 as the Australian comedy chameleon plays his first show in three years at the age of 88 at York’s Grand Opera House.
Plus Graham unexpectedly encounters Chinese artist Ai Weiwei at Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge; Echo & The Bunnymen and Groove Armada’s Leeds O2 Academy gigs, and Harrogate gallery curator Andrew Stewart RIP.
FROM Roman remnants to re-discovered early Pink Floyd gems, Charles Hutchinson reveals highlights of the week ahead.
Exhibition of the week: The Ryedale Hoard, Yorkshire Museum, Museum Gardens, York, open daily during half-term, then Tuesday to Saturday from April 25
THE Yorkshire Museum has re-opened with the new exhibition The Ryedale Hoard: A Roman Mystery. For the first time, visitors can see some of Yorkshire’s most significant Roman objects, while exploring an intriguing archaeological mystery: who buried them 1,800 years ago?
Discovered by metal detectorists, on permanent show are a rare bust, made to adorn the top of a sceptre and thought to show Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor from AD 161 to 180. An intricate figurine of a horse and rider, probably made in Britain, represents the god Mars.
A horse-shaped handle for a key, for magical purposes, may have been deliberately broken before burial. A plumb bob, large and finely created, would have been a weight for establishing a “plumb” vertical line. To book tickets: yorkshiremuseum.org.
York musical of the week: Bite My Thumb Theatre Company in Rent The Musical, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Thursday to Saturday, 7.30pm
ARTISTIC director Neil Knipe directs Bite My Thumb in a spring tour of Jonathan Larson’s ground-breaking 1994 American musical about falling in love, finding your voice and living for today.
Set in the East Village of New York City, Rent follows a year in the life of a bohemian group of impoverished young artists, struggling to survive as they negotiate their dreams, loves and conflicts. Box office: 01904 501935 or at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.
Ryedale musical of the week: Ryedale Youth Theatre in Matilda Jr The Musical, Tuesday to Saturday, 7pm; 3pm matinees, Thursday, Friday, Saturday
BORN with astonishing wit, intelligence, a vivid imagination and special powers, school pupil Matilda rebels against the mean, monstrous, rule-ridden regime of headteacher Miss Trunchbull.
Scripted by Dennis Kelly with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin, Matilda Jr is packed with multiple featured roles. Given the profusion of young Ryedale talent, director Chloe Shipley has decided on double casting to give everyone who auditioned the opportunity to perform in the principal parts. Box office: yourboxoffice.co.uk.
Dance return of the week: BalletBoyz Deluxe, Grand Opera House, York, Monday, 7.30pm
MICHAEL Nunn and William Trevitt’s BalletBoyz return to York with what began as the boisterous, bold company’s 20th anniversary show but is now running into a 23rd year.
Eight young dancers interweave in two mesmeric dances, fused with the BalletBoyz’ trademark witty use of film and behind-the-scenes content.
Deluxe features a commission from choreographer Xie Xin and composer Jiang Shaofeng, followed by a collaboration between Punchdrunk’s Maxine Doyle with jazz musician and composer Cassie Kinoshi, from SEED Ensemble. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or atgtickets.com/York.
Anniversary show of the week: Michael Flatley’s Lord Of The Dance, York Barbican, Monday to Thursday, 8pm
MICHAEL Flatley’s Lord Of The Dance show is “going to the next level” in 2022 for its 25th anniversary travels, wherein high-energy Irish dancing combines with original music, storytelling and sensuality.
Expect new staging, costumes and choreography plus cutting-edge technology, special effects and lighting, in a production featuring 40 young performers directed by Flatley, dancing to new compositions by Gerard Fahy as tradition meets the excitement of the innovative. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.
Yorkshire event of the week: A Grand Yorkshire Night Out with Harry Gration & Christine Talbot, York Theatre Royal, Monday, 7.30pm
YORKSHIRE broadcasting legends Harry Gration and Christine Talbot, formerly of the BBC’s Look North and ITV’s rival Calendar respectively, join forces to host a journey down memory lane on a rare occasion these friends will have presented together.
The duo look back at memorable stories, plus a smattering of their crazier fundraising exploits, from tandem rides and a sofa push to Harry being tied to weather presenter Paul Hudson for days on end.
Special guests will be production team members from the original All Creatures Great And Small series, Leeds band The Dunwells and Harry’s musical son, Harrison, singing songs from the shows. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
Confessions of the week: Barry Humphries, The Man Behind The Mask, Grand Opera House, York, Wednesday, 7.30pm
BARRY Humphries takes to the stage for the first time in three years on Wednesday to reveal The Man Behind The Mask, playing the Grand Opera House in the only Yorkshire show of his 2022 tour
The Australian actor, comedian, satirist, artist, author and national treasure, aged 88, conducts a revelatory trip through his colourful life and theatrical career in an intimate, confessional evening, seasoned with highly personal, sometimes startling and occasionally outrageous stories of Dame Edna Everage, Sir Les Patterson, four marriages et al. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or atgtickets.com/York.
Pink Floyd show of the week: Nick Mason’s Saucerful Of Secrets, York Barbican, August 16, 7.30pm
PINK Floyd drummer Nick Mason teams up with Spandau Ballet guitarist Gary Kemp, Guy Pratt, Lee Harris and Dom Beken for this re-arranged show with original tickets still valid.
The 2022 tour finds Mason and co further expanding their repertoire on a journey of Pink Floyd re-discovery, playing songs from their early catalogue up to the 1972 album Obscured By Clouds. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.
Oh, and another thing
THIS is the second weekend of York Open Studios, 10am to 5pm today and tomorrow. Go discover at yorkopenstudios.co.uk.
BARRY Humphries will reveal The Man Behind The Mask at the Grand Opera House, York, on April 13.
This one-man show comes fully eight years after his supposedly valedictory Yorkshire visit in February 2014, when the creator of Dame Edna Everage presented Eat Pray Laugh!, Barry Humphries’ Farewell Tour in a five-night run at Leeds Grand Theatre.
Now, in the only Yorkshire show of his 2022 tour, the veteran Australian actor, comedian, satirist, artist, author and national treasure will take a revelatory trip through his colourful life and theatrical career in an intimate, confessional evening, seasoned with highly personal, sometimes startling and occasionally outrageous stories of Dame Edna et al.
Peeling off his mask at the age of 88 to introduce the man behind the clown, Humphries says: “This is a show in which I am the principal character; it’s not Les [Sir Les Patterson], it’s not Edna, it’s not Sandy Stone. It is really about this character called ‘me’. I’m not in disguise.”
Superstar Melbourne housewife Dame Edna’s sequined frocks and uncouth Sydney cultural attaché Sir Les’s food-spattered ties may make cameo appearances – or “interruptions” – in film clips, but the primary focus will be on Humphries relating anecdotes and observations from life on and off stage.
“Frankly, I thought it would be a little easier. No need to dress up,” he says. “I’ve had a lot of extremely interesting, colourful, scary, joyous experiences in my life – and I’m quite good with audiences.”
Humphries premiered The Man Behind The Mask in Australia, where it was “very, very successful”. “In a way, it was my out-of-town try-out. Now I’m bringing it here,” he says. “I’ve written the whole show plus a new song called Alone At Last, which would bring a tear to a glass eye.’”
When he appears at the Grand Opera House next Wednesday, Humphries will be setting foot on stage for the first time in nearly three years. Is he scared? “Oh no, I’ll get back in the groove very quickly,” he asserts.
Reflecting on his stage renaissance at 88, Humphries says: “Yes, but it’s not as though I’m going to pass away mid-performance like poor Tommy Cooper. But is it brave? On the contrary, I’ve always thought of myself as quite cowardly. The sound of a cricket bat hitting a ball invariably causes me to duck.”
First and foremost, Humphries’ show is a comedy. “The most important thing is to get that first laugh. Then I’ll be back in my comfort zone,” he says.
It was ever thus. After working in the wholesale department at EMI in his native Melbourne for a year in his late teens, he was taken on by Australia’s only touring repertory theatre company and was cast as Prince Orsino in Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night. “Or should I say miscast? I had to wear tights and, when I walked on stage, I thought I heard a titter running round the audience,” recalls Humphries.
“Immediately, I tried to disguise the bottom half of my body. After three performances, the director said that my entrance was terrible. Why was I skulking behind the furniture?
“I explained that I thought my legs were ruining this serious play. He assured me his wife was of the opinion that I had very good legs, but then he added: ‘You must realise as an actor that you’re naturally ridiculous’.”
“Naturally ridiculous”, Barry? “Now, some people might regard that as a bit of an insult. I was 18 at the time and it could have shaken my confidence, but it didn’t,” says Humphries. “What it made me realise was that I was in the wrong department of theatre. Whether I liked it or not, I belonged in comedy.”
At the time, he considered himself to be a painter, mostly of landscapes, but caricatures too. Once at university, however, he began writing sketches for revues in the style of Noel Coward or Terence Rattigan.
‘Later on, I tried my hand at writing about what was in front of me,” Humphries says. “No-one at the time wrote about Australia in general and the suburbs in particular.”
Come the Melbourne Olympic Games in 1956, the repertory company director decided to present a revue and asked the 22-year-old Humphries to contribute material.
“There weren’t enough hotel rooms in the city, so people were encouraged to let international athletes stay in their spare rooms, so I wrote a sketch about a housewife called Edna who invited a muscular sportsman into her home,” he recalls.
In that first incarnation, Edna was “rather shy, very suburban, a little dowdy”. “But, in time, that changed. It was as though she started to assert herself,” says Humphries. “I’d wake up one day and she’d acquired those trademark glasses. Her confidence grew. Suddenly, there was an invalid husband, Norm; a gay son; a delinquent daughter, a silent bridesmaid, Madge.
“She took on a life of her own. It was as though she’d started writing her own script. I’d be on the side, observing with some admiration, Edna’s quips.”
Nevertheless, by the early 1960s, Humphries decided that Edna had run her course. “But no, she proved indestructible, and she’s turned out to be a very useful mouthpiece,” he reappraises. “She can say things, for instance, about political correctness that I couldn’t possibly express.”
The same freedom applies to Sir Les’s coarse outbursts. “Absolutely. For example, I never swear in real life,” says Humphries. “Both characters are wonderful outlets. I’m very careful myself about what I might say. Edna and Sir Les, on the other hand, can point to the nudity of the emperor.”
Off stage, Humphries has conducted a somewhat lively private life. Married four times and father to two daughters from his second marriage and two sons from his third, he and fourth wife, Lizzie, tied the knot in 1990. Why has marriage endured this time? “Oh, because I’m a bit smarter now,” he says.
“The truth is that I’m not a very easy person to be married to. For over ten years of my life, I had a serious alcoholic illness.” So much so, his out-of-control drinking culminated in Humphries being found unconscious in an Australian gutter.
“I’d been beaten up, almost certainly by two or three policemen who I’d been cheeky to – let us say – the previous day. They didn’t like that and took their revenge,” he says.
It was to prove a turning point. ‘If you’re dependent on alcohol for your happiness or your comfort or merely to function, it’s not only degrading but you head in one direction – and that’s downwards,” Humphries says.
“I finally put the cork in the bottle when I was 38 and I haven’t touched a drop of alcohol from that day to this. But I know many alcoholics who have chastening experiences and yet carry on drinking.”
His long-held philosophy is to live in the present. “That’s a very hard thing to do but a very good spiritual exercise,” Humphries says. “I’m happier since the arrival of my grandchildren. I’m relating to them in a way I didn’t get round to doing with my own children. That’s a major regret. I’m trying to make up for the years lost to alcoholism.”
Barry Humphries, The Man Behind The Mask, Grand Opera House, York, April 13, 7.30pm, with an opportunity for audience questions. Tickets update: Still available on 0844 871 7615 or at atgtickets.com/york.
By Charles Hutchinson and Richard Barber. Copyright of The Press, York
BARRY Humphries will reveal The Man Behind The Mask on his new 2022 tour, visiting the Grand Opera House, York, for his only Yorkshire show on April 13.
The Australian actor, comedian, satirist, artist, author and national treasure, who is set to turn 88 on February 17, will take a revelatory trip through his colourful life and theatrical career in an intimate, confessional evening, seasoned with highly personal, sometimes startling and occasionally outrageous stories of Dame Edna Everage et al.
Tickets for the 7.30pm performance go on sale at £46.50 upwards at 10am tomorrow morning on 0844 871 7615 or at atgtickets.com/york.
The Brits welcomed housewife and talk-show host Dame Edna with open arms as Humphries’ premier alter ego immediately became a household favourite, later joined by obese, lecherous and offensive Australian cultural attaché, the Honourable Sir Les Patterson and the elderly, childless Sandy Stone, “Australia’s most boring man”, as Humphries has called him.
Peeling off his mask to introduce the man behind the clown, Humphries says: “This is a show in which I am the principal character; it’s not Les, it’s not Edna, it’s not Sandy Stone. It is really about this character called ‘me’. I’m not in disguise.”
His York audience can expect a virtuoso comic solo performance filled with laughter, drama and surprise. “There will be an opportunity to ask questions and the magic of technology may even allow appearances – or interruptions – by unexpected guests,” Humphries’ press release teases.
Prompt booking is advised for his return to Yorkshire, where he presented Eat Pray Laugh!, Barry Humphries’ Farewell Tour at Leeds Grand Theatre from February 25 to March 1 2014.