Reviewer: Jo Beggs
From Ken Barlow’s girlfriend to Purdey, Bond Girl to Patsy Stone, Joanna Lumley has been carving out her role as National Treasure for nearly fifty years. Most recently she’s been getting all emotional under the Northern Lights and following the Silk Road, remaking herself as a go-to celebrity to front travel documentaries.
It’s no wonder she’s in demand for such exotic adventures. Lumley, the woman who once posed with her leg up on a Rolls-Royce and a gun stuck in the top of her stocking, who created one of the funniest scenes on British television falling out of a taxi with Edina Monsoon in Absolutely Fabulous, is a serious, and seriously inspiring human being. Intelligent, shrewd, compassionate and thoughtful, she’s the perfect ambassador.
At 72 she’s on the road telling a few stories with her friend and Producer Clive Tulloh. In the first half of this hugely entertaining show Lumley gives us a potted history of her career – her humiliating audition at RADA, her life as a model in 1960s London, her early walk-on parts on stage and screen, her breakthrough inThe New Avengers, and her first meeting with Jennifer Saunders. There’s some well-chosen images and short excerpts fromCoronation Street, The New Avengers, Sapphire and Steel, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Trail of the Pink Panther but the show doesn’t rely on replaying old TV, keeping all the focus on the energetic Lumley. She bounces around the stage in a sharp white outfit and sparkly trainers, telling stories with the kind of delight that makes you feel as though she’s telling them for the first time.
Lumley delivers a hilarious, pacey and beautifully written script. Through it all shines a fantastic sense of optimism. She’s curious about, and delighted with, the world, not only with the grand, important things, but with the little things. She’ll have a go at anything – something which is a definite bonus for the producers of her travel programmes which have seen her drink fermented mare’s milk and take part in an Iranian cleansing ceremony. She does it all with such poise and grace and she’s as relaxed and eloquent in the second half of the show – a Q&A with the audience – as she is in the scripted first half.
There’s a lovely sense of camaraderie between Lumley and Producer Clive Tulloh who selects from the dozens of questions from the audience – written on cards during the interval. He’s something of an entertainer himself, with his wry humour and great comic timing in the mix, they make something of a double act. Given that a whole batch of questions will turn up every night, there’s a bunch of images and film clips ready and waiting to illustrate Lumley’s answers. From first kisses to favourite places, from her popularity in the gay community to how she maintains her positivity, she shares her thoughts, hopes and secrets for a happy life.
Celebrity biographies are so often a string of unrelated anecdotes, name-dropping and self- promotion. It’s All About Me is, indeed, all about her, but it could not be more full of wit, inspiration and generosity.
Reviewed on 14 October 2018 | Image: Contributed