LIZ JONES

The Mail on Sunday - Event - - THEATRE -

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

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