The Lowry, Salford On tour until Nov 11
I’m in a sea of grey hair. Women dressed up, compliant husbands in tow. A rowdy gaggle from the WI. At The Lowry in Salford there’s not an empty seat in the house. Everyone is examining the £5 programme, getting out specs, holding photos to the light. There is Joanna Lumley, whom we are here to see in her first one-woman show, on the cover of Vogue, on the cover of a Patons knitting pattern. As Purdey in The New Avengers, with a pudding-bowl hairstyle every girl in my school wanted to copy. And of course, there she is, head thrown back, beehive wobbling, the neck of a bottle of Bolly in that toothsome mouth as Patsy Stone, the best comic creation since Sybil Fawlty.
When she bounds on stage in glittery trainers, it’s hard to believe she’s 72. The first half of the show is a canter through her career, from a failed audition at Rada to writing 51 letters to repertory theatres and receiving only one reply, to a career modelling at the height of Swinging London (‘We were taught to enter a room hip bones first’), and finally being cast as a Bond girl in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
She describes, with a great deal of miming, the press call to announce her being cast as Purdey (the name was her idea) at the Dorchester, when
Joanna Lumley, and, top, with Jennifer Saunders in Absolutely Fabulous