Love Songs for Sir Les

Jun 22, 2015

According to the Adelaide Cabaret Festival’s 2015 motto, “There are no rules”, but if there were any you could be sure that Sir Les Patterson would break them.

Ever since Les turned up –  instead of Dame Edna – to Jaye Walton’s daytime television program A Touch of Elegance, he has been offending people and saying things that we have all been taught are inappropriate, offensive, sexist, misogynistic and hurtful. And yet we continue to pay good money to see him and hear him say them.

This has always been the nature of cabaret and comedy: to entertain, break taboos and rules, and to question conventional wisdom.

Sir Les Patterson is a caricature of an Australian politician; a cultural attaché who, at taxpayers’ expense, treats himself to stopovers in Bangkok. As soon as he mentions that city, giving a sleazy look and dribbling and spitting over the front-row audience members, we know he is going to say something vulgar that will have us bursting with laughter.

 Love Songs for Sir Les wrapped up a very successful Adelaide Cabaret Festival, and Sir Les was joined by some prominent cabaret performers. Musical director Vanessa Scammel had the Adelaide Art Orchestra in fine form – they sounded superb – and the simple set, lit in subdued reddish tones, created the atmosphere for a night of cabaret.

Ali McGregor – announced yesterday as co-director, with Eddie Perfect, of the 2016 Cabaret Festival – opened the show. She looked and sounded sensational, and when she sang of the man of her dreams, the audience was waiting and giggling in anticipation of Sir Les’s entrance; in fact, the audience had been anticipating his arrival from the moment the front rows were asked to don orange ponchos.

Amelia Ryan took to the stage first, in a dazzling silver shimmering gown, to belt out a couple of fine numbers. Then, finally, Sir Les appeared. He delivered gags and anecdotes which were mostly from his much earlier one-man shows, but they still work, largely due to the character’s magnetism, charisma and showmanship, which enable him to pull it off with the ease of a much younger man.

Trevor Ashley burst on as Shirley Bassey –  who Sir Les mistook for the real Shirley Bassey – and so we were treated to a couple of classic Bassey hits. Lady Rizo, from New York, energetically combined audience participation with a unique cabaret treatment and delivery of a couple of complex songs. The Songbirds provided a change of pace and sang sweetly with delightful harmonies.

Love Songs for Sir Les, in the tradition of the Cabaret Festival, showcased some of the finest cabaret performers from the festival and provided an opportunity for audiences  to taste the delicacies they may have missed: a highlight of the night was McGregor belting out “Feeling Good”.

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 Sir Les appeared three times and the audience was hoping for more: he is revolting, but the more repulsive he is, the more he gets away with. Barry Humphries has had exceptional longevity with Sir Les and to see him live is to witness a master comedian work an audience.

Love Songs for Sir Les was a one-only show at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, which concluded on Saturday.

More Adelaide Cabaret Festival stories and reviews here.


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