Comedy; Lizard of Oz

AH, THE Royal Festival Hall, the august venue that plays host to refined string quartets, uplifting choral works and, er, Sir Les Patterson, the man who has raised the public emission of bodily fluids to an art form.

Playing in that sophisticated hall as part of the Meltdown '99 festival only seemed to egg Sir Les on, like a naughty schoolboy, who just has to swear in front of the vicar. He admitted: "I know a lot of you are asking what is Les Patterson doing in a beautiful venue like this? ... I'm asking the same question." He is the ultimate one-joke wonder - he rarely sees the need to stray far beyond his own orifices. But it's pulled off with such panache, it scarcely matters.

From the moment he marched on stage after Nick Cave's fulsome introduction and asked: "Who was that tall streak of piss?", we knew subtle wordplay wasn't a danger.

But the audience simply lapped up the stream of single entendres, mostly too rude to quote in a family newspaper. I couldn't recount what he produced from his trousers during his amusing duet with Kylie Minogue, nor repeat his explanation of how the Poet Laureate came to be known as Andrew Motion.

Barry Humphries' creation may revel in his image as the man PC forgot, but it is hard to resist a performer who takes such obvious joy in language - a hard-drinking friend is "a card-carrying turps-nudger who bugles the bottle". Sir Les savours words like drops of amber nectar.

I could easily have lived without Sir Les's songs, and there was a ghastly crashing of gears when Germaine Greer came on in a red and gold academic gown to read out a ribald poem by the Earl of Rochester.

An extra garnish of kitsch was provided by - yes - a leather-clad Rolf Harris. And Dame Edna Everage breezed in just long enough to insult a woman in the front row about her frock. "It's a lovely fabric. You were lucky to get so much of it."

For all that, it was Sir Les's show. As he exited, the audience whooped and hollered with a fervour rarely heard within those hallowed portals.

James Rampton

A version of this review appeared in later editions of yesterday's paper