Monday, February 12, 2007

dame edna part II

“Fetish of respectability”

Seeing a performance of Dame Edna’s “Back with a Vengeance” was truly delightful. As an American, there was much I couldn’t understand – comments on recent political situations, the vast range of Australian slang, and at times the heavy accent of his character Sir Les Patterson. With that said though, it was fantastic, the highest quality of live performance (obviously, he is renowned in London and on Broadway). He is a rare breed – brilliant, perceptive, sarcastic humor from a character actor. I laughed so much it hurt. Simultaneous with this cultural encounter with Dame Edna, I am learning a great deal from a well-known Australian novel - My Brother Jack. From both, I find parallel perspectives on a particular time in Melbourne’s history – post war boom and emerging middle class values in the suburbs.

Here is a passage from this book by George Johnston. It is set in the 1940s. The protagonist’s bleak reflections on his life in the newly forming suburbs of Melbourne are quite similar to the affluent suburbs in which Barry Humphries grew up and the setting which he parodies and from which he extracted his character Dame Edna –

“…my elevation provided me with the first opportunity I had had to look out over all the Beverly Park Gardens Estate, and there was nothing all around me, as far as I could see, but a plain of dull red rooftops in their three forms of pitching and closer to hand the green squares and rectangles of lawns intersected by ribbons of asphalt and cement, and I counted nine cars out in Beverley Grove being washed and polished. In the slums, I reflected, they had a fetish about keeping front door-knobs polished, but here in the ‘good’ respectable suburbs the fetish was applied to cars and to gardens, and there were fixed rituals about this, so that hedges were clipped and lawns trimmed and bed weeded…and the people would see that these things were so no matter what desolation or anxiety or fear was in their hearts, or what spiritless endeavours or connubial treacheries were practiced behind the blind neat concealment of their thin red-brick walls.”


rev tc said...

lucky you guys - dame edna and sir les, in the flesh! and with kim in front (o, ploize!!!)

another book you might like sherry, is 'cloudstreet', by tim winton. set around the same times, tho in pertth, w.a. great insights, and lol funny at times.

love to yez from london.

geoff and sherry said...

thanks tony for the book suggestion. i've actually read it and it is a beautiful book. last night we sat with andrew hamilton ('hamo' from perth - forge) and he went to school with winton!! i told him he's the closest we'll ever come to tim. we also enjoyed dirt music.

we look forward to seeing you in august - greenbelt??