Civic Theatre hosts Barry Humphries and The Orchid and The Orchid Crow | Ken Longworth

GETTING PERSONAL: Spend the night with a legend. The Civic Theatre hosts Barry Humphries: The Man Behind the Mask next month.

GETTING PERSONAL: Spend the night with a legend. The Civic Theatre hosts Barry Humphries: The Man Behind the Mask next month.

AUSTRALIAN actor Barry Humphries moved to London in 1959, when he was 25, and became renowned for the characters he created on stage, including Dame Edna Everage, Sir Les Paterson and Sandy Stone, as well as his theatre and film roles.

But Humphries has maintained his Australian relationships, returning to Melbourne around three times a year to visit family members, and making occasional tours in predominantly comic roles.

He will begin a very different Australian tour at Newcastle’s Civic Theatre next month, in a show titled Barry Humphries: The Man Behind the Mask, in which he’ll talk about the personal issues he has encountered over the decades, who else was concerned, and how they were resolved. He reveals, for example, how Dame Edna Everage, who began her stage life in a one-person show he presented in London in 1962, actually grew from a woman who greeted audience members from the stage in a Melbourne University revue that he appeared in at the end of 1955.   

The show will have performances at the Civic on Saturday, May 5, at 8pm, and Sunday, May 6, at 1pm.

The Barry Humphries show will be one of two looking at generally unrevealed matters in well-known performers’ lives that will come to Newcastle in May. The other event, The Orchid & the Crow, a comedy cabaret written by and featuring Daniel Tobias, who is a member of the comedy duo band Die Roten Punkte, can be seen at the Civic Playhouse on Friday and Saturday, May 11 and 12, at 8pm, plus a 2pm Saturday matinee.

The show, which reveals the amusing reasons for its title, looks at how Tobias reacted in 2004, when he was aged 29, to doctors finding that he was suffering from testicular cancer which was at a stage close to causing his death. The story has been lightened by the incorporation of new songs, written in collaboration with his Die Roten Punkte partner Clare Bartholomew, that include a 1980s-style rock number, a Doris Day-mode romantic piece, and an amusing Italian operatic work. The show uses background videos to underline the nature of some of the story’s events. And The Orchid & the Crow, which was first staged in 2015, has won awards at festivals in Edinburgh and Canada.

Tobias tells how he was inspired to battle the cancer by reading a book that a nurse handed to him. The book’s author, seven times winner of the Tour de France bicycle race, Lance Armstrong, had also tackled late-stage testicular cancer, by asking medical practitioners questions about the illness and demanding honest answers. Tobias adopted a similar approach.

Tickets: Civic Theatre box-office, 4929 1977 or through Ticketek.  

Church Street Dramas

THIS year marks the 200th anniversary of the issue of the first land grants in Maitland, and the Maitland 200 Years On events celebrating the birth of what became a major regional city will include a theatrical work, Church Street Dramas, that will show in an entertaining way a series of news making incidents that occurred in houses and blocks of land along the title thoroughfare in the past century. The series of short plays, written and directed by Maitland Repertory Theatre life member Frank Oakes, and presented by The Friends of Grossmann House and Maitland Repertory Theatre, will be staged where the events happened.

Many audience members are likely to be surprised that a few small blocks of Church Street could produce such a variety of funny, gruesome and stirring stories, which show child killers, ghosts, wild bulls, murderers and more. And at the end of the show, patrons will dine in suitable style at historic Brough House, with the meal included in the ticket price.

The performances will begin at Brough House, 73 Church Street, at 4.30pm, with shows on Friday, April 20, Saturday, April 21, Sunday, April 22, Thursday, April 26, Friday, April 27, and Sunday, April 29. Tickets - $33, concession and National Trust members $30, and children $25 – can be booked though trybooking.com/363291, or phoning 4933 3330 and 0418 831 599. Funds raised will go towards the maintenance of the National Trust’s two Church Street properties and the work of Maitland Repertory Theatre.