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Rarely Everage

The Lives of Barry Humphries

Saturday 23 November 2002 until Sunday 16 February 2003

The exhibition begins with Barry's childhood in Camberwell, Melbourne and chronicles his days as a struggling actor in Australia and England, his creation of characters including Barry McKenzie, Dame Edna Everage, Sandy Stone and Sir Les Patterson. Such satirical creations, at times, have led him into turbulent relationships with his country of birth and his many lives - as writer, comedian, artist, actor, entertainer, social provocateur and celebrity are explored.

Slim Dusty and Dame Edna Everage, Carlton Hill Station, WA, 10 July 1993, 1993 by John Elliott
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Slim Dusty and Dame Edna Everage, Carlton Hill Station, WA, 10 July 1993, 1993 by John Elliott

‘He is gifted with so many talents it is almost unfair. He can write, he can create superb comic verse, he can produce novels, plays, and he is an artist. His knowledge of art is such he should be on the board of the National Gallery. He has an amazing insight into esoteric Edwardian and Victorian writers and who knows as much about Art Nouveau? Ah, but this is the key to Barry Humphries, he is a one-man act. He can create all his own material and has the bravado to go ahead, utterly fearless, and put it on stage. Without doubt he is the most successful entertainer Australia has produced with the possible exception of Dame Nellie Melba.’

Keith Dunstan, Journalist

A highlight of the National Portrait Gallery year is the biographical exhibition, Rarely Everage: The Lives of Barry Humphries.

The exhibition begins with Barry’s childhood in Camberwell, Melbourne and chronicles his days as a struggling actor in Australia and England, his creation of characters including Barry McKenzie, Dame Edna Everage, Sandy Stone and Sir Les Patterson. Such satirical creations, at times, have led him into turbulent relationships with his country of birth and his many lives - as writer, comedian, artist, actor, entertainer, social provocateur and celebrity are explored.

Rarely Everage includes photographs, books, manuscripts, early drawings, Dada-inspired sculptures, paintings, dresses and fashion accessories.

The exhibition has drawn loans from public and private collections in Australia and overseas including many from the Barry Humphries-Dame Edna Everage Collection at the Performing Arts Museum, Victorian Arts Centre.