Model. Actress. Activist. Adventurer. Joanna Lumley has had an awe-inspiring journey through the bright lights of fame. As Joanna prepares to tour Britain during her upcoming one-woman show, Lorne Gillies sat down with Joanna to discover just why it’s all about her, sweetie.
Elegant is not a word that is worthy of many, Joanna Lumley is not only elegant, she’s absolutely fabulous. Speaking in an almost sensual whisper, everything Joanna encompasses oozes sophistication with a dash of humour.
Having dazzled as a model during the swinging sixties, to the cobbles of Coronation Street alongside activism, charity work and stunning in her performance as Patsy Stone, Joanna is reliving her life during her It’s All About Me tour.
ON THE ROAD
“I wonder to myself, have I gone completely mad,” laughs Joanna. Kicking off on 6 October and ending on 2 November, Joanna is preparing to perform 28 shows in her first tour of this kind. The premise of the evening will see Joanna, alongside host and friend, Clive Tulloh, take the audience through a rollercoaster of memories and laughter.
Joanna explains: “We’re going to do it in two halves. Rather than start where I’m very young, which is a bit out of touch. Most people can remember, or will have heard about the swinging sixties, where I started out as a model. Then all the bits and pieces that I’ve done, which many people may have heard about: Pink Panther, Dracula, Bond, and Coronation Street. Talk through Absolutely Fabulous, of course, The New Avengers and just life in general with lots of pictures. I’m so longing for it.
“I will have prepared it but not rehearsed it. The photographs will remind me of different things, although, I will know the areas roughly – I will be kind of prepared, otherwise the chaps doing the slides will be at their wits end. It will be a little bit different and a little bit flying by the seat of my pants if I’ve suddenly remembered a story that I haven’t told because it’s funny or ridiculous.
“We’re then going to have an interval where everyone can have a glass of wine – or escape – and the second half is going to be questions from the audience… I hope [the show] will just be funny. All the funny parts to modelling; it’s not going to be a grand parade of my finest works, it’s going to be absolutely what the reality is of working as an actress, which is always funny.”
The show that turned Joanna from a household name into an icon is undoubtedly, Absolutely Fabulous. It is also the show that Joanna knows most people will want to hear anecdotes from. Running for nearly 25 years, the BBC comedy has transcended time with people worldwide still tuning in to see the antics of Patsy Stone and Eddie Monsoon (played by Jennifer Saunders, who wrote the show). After all, we all know a Patsy and Eddie.
“This is the thing with Jennifer’s writing. Even though we started doing it in 1992, in the show we flashed forwards and backwards, to Eddie’s birth, Patsy’s birth, we flashed forward to when we were 112 in our wheelchairs with a bottle of vodka attached to a drip! That made it all huge fun and slightly less dateable. It lasts, it’s got legs because it was so funny,” says Joanna. And it’s Ab Fab that rocketed Joanna, and her cast, into the history books of female comedy – with a bond of friendship we all desire.
As much as we all adored, laughed and cherished the show, Joanna does too. She adds: “I’m going to talk about Ab Fab a bit, but I’m sure people will want to talk about it more. I adored it. It was one of the happiest times of my life… Sometimes I see episodes on an aeroplane and I can’t remember it and I find myself laughing out loud remembering what fun we had. We could hardly rehearse sometimes we just lay on the ground and laughed, and laughed.”
Joanna is also thrilled to further explore the British Isles, meeting people and sharing experiences with everyone. The memories Joanna has are sure to be a thrill to listen to, whilst getting an insight into the world of one of Britain’s national treasures. But, It’s All About Me isn’t the only project Joanna has up her sleeve as we’re currently being treated to Joanna’s new travel series. And what a treat it is.
Travel is a gift that Joanna has treasured throughout her life and her current ITV series (which first aired on 12 September), Joanna Lumley’s Silk Road Adventure is her attempt of scratching the surface of another historical phenomenon.
Across four episodes, viewers can see Joanna visit eight countries across a 7000-mile journey following the Silk Road route, which shaped the trading business of the modern world. Spreading food, inventions, cultures and, of course, silk across Asia and Europe this is probably Joanna’s most adventurous journey to date.
“It was just so extraordinary, and I think it’s going to open a lot of people’s eyes – it opened my eyes – to places I had no idea about,” enthuses Joanna. “Places like Tashkent, which sounds so remote when you look on a map and ask where it is and then you think dusty roads, with shambolic buildings: but it is the chicest city I’ve ever seen, great opera houses and avenues of fabulous trees and parks and spotless streets, I had no idea… Before I fall dead, I’ll have only scratched the surface of what I want to know.”
Form the bright lights of the stage to the dusty roads of the silk trade: Joanna Lumley has no intention of slowing down, nor do we want her to. Until next time, darling.