Writer: Joan Collins
Director: Percy Gibson
Reviewer: Nichola Daunton
There is no stopping Joan Collins. A firm believer in her oft-repeated mantra, “the harder you work, the luckier you get”, the actress, author, columnist, and all-round Hollywood glamorous puss has barely stopped since she was snapped up by Rank Films aged 17.
One Night With Joan sees Collins take to the stage of the Leicester Square theatre to tell the story of her rather topsy-turvy career. In true, glamorous fashion she is joined on stage by a plush chair cum throne and an old-fashioned telephone which rings intermittently to signal a faux call from a director, friend, and at one point Peter Sellers. The set, designed by Oliver Sones, borders on high camp, with velvety pinks and glittering jewels abounding, but this is what you expect, and indeed want, from Collins. The woman herself is decked out in tumbling jewels and figure-hugging gold lamé trousers after all.
Decoration aside, Collins wastes no time launching into the story of her life, beginning with what she describes as a happy and lovely childhood. From a theatrical family, her father was always against his daughter becoming an actress, even though she began appearing on stage aged nine. Collins rattles through stories of her early acting adventures, her time at Rank and her move to Hollywood when the call came in her late teens. Littered with famous names from the very beginning, it is clear that tonight is about celebrity gossip as much as it about Collins, albeit that most of the celebrities she is offering tidbits on are long dead. Meetings with Marilyn Monroe, Bette Davis, and Liz Taylor all come with stories attached, and her description of a bald, be-wigged, and bitter Davis well highlights Hollywood’s cruelty towards older women. Studio bosses giving her speed to help her lose weight are also mentioned with rolled eyes, though there is no comparison to the rigid fad-diets of today’s Hollywood, which is no longer her world.
While the evening’s first half is dedicated to her early career, and is rather traditional and a little staid in its delivery, the second half, which sees Joan re-appear in a full-length sequin gown, is much more fun, with a faster pace and a good deal more bitchiness. Which is of course apt as it is mainly based around Dynasty, and Alexis Carrington, Collins’ most lauded, cult rôle. Outtakes, montages of bitch fights, and searing put-downs come thick and fast, and while her delivery and her jokes don’t always hit the mark, it is hard to hold
She also proves herself to be more self-aware than some people might give her credit for, sending herself up on many occasions by showing clips from some of the real turkeys she has acted in over the years (a particular highlight being a hilarious singing number in which she is backed by a cast dressed as the signs of the zodiac). While stories of her family, and indeed her five husbands are quickly skimmed through, she doesn’t shy away from the ups and downs of her career and the fact that it’s by no means been smooth
Much like her acting, One Night With Joan is not going to set the world on fire, but it does add some much-needed glamour, sparkle, and a pinch of camp to it.
Runs until 9th February