Joanna Lumley

We chat with national treasure Joanna Lumley

by Northern Life

Joanna Lumley with Northern Life magazine

Joanna Lumley with Northern Life magazine

It’s a boiling hot day in London when we catch up with one of the nation’s most loved actresses. We’re rushing around, trying to negotiate the ‘big smoke’ and not lose our exceptionally precious cargo… the latest issue of Northern Life. We’re meeting none other than Joanna Lumley, who as it happens along with her Absolutely Fabulous co-star, Jennifer Saunders, is a fan of all things Northern Life.

Joanna Lumley is exceptionally popular but she still exhibits a quality we Brits prize perhaps above all others: self-deprecation.

Take her initial reaction to the decision to embark on her first ever nationwide live tour, “Joanna Lumley It’s All About Me”. With a self-effacing grin, Joanna reveals, “When the tour was announced, my first concern was that I would have to pay people to come. I thought, ‘We will have to close the dress circle and pay people to sit in the stalls.’

“When we were doing a tour of Private Lives, one theatre shut the circle and the two side aisles of the stalls, so just the middle section was open. But there were still only two men, a dog and a mongoose. So I’m used to playing to sadly small audiences!”

Fortunately, that will certainly not be the case on this tour which will see Joanna tour all over the country; instead Joanna will be performing to packed houses.

“It’s utterly thrilling that on the first day, the show was selling out across the country. At first, I was scared about this tour. But now I’m so excited!”

If anyone qualifies for the overused title of “national treasure”, it’s Joanna. In a career spanning more than four decades, she has generated almost unparalleled levels of love and affection in a whole variety of genres.

Joanna is just as delightful in person as she is on screen and “It’s All About Me” will play to her undoubted strength: her tremendous rapport with her legions of fans and she’s looking forward to connecting with audiences up and down the country. “The great thing about performing live is the audience.

“I travel around London on the Tube, and people are constantly talking to me as if I’m their friend. They’ll say to me, ‘What we really liked about India was this…’ Every theatre on this tour will be a room full of friends. I can’t wait!”

In “It’s All About Me”, Joanna will recount stories from every stage of her career, including such timeless TV shows as Absolutely Fabulous and The New Avengers and her award-winning travel programmes. Many of these anecdotes will not have been heard in public before.

In addition, the live show will feature a section where she is joined on stage by friend and producer Clive Tulloh. He will pose her questions from the audience about everything they’ve always wanted to know about Joanna, but were afraid to ask. This is just one element which will ensure that “It’s All About Me” is a unique and hilarious night to remember.

Joanna, who has over the years worked tirelessly for a number of very worthy causes, notably the Gurkha Justice Campaign, will have absolutely no shortage of material for the live show.

Joanna will be focusing on a few key roles in “It’s All About Me”. For instance, she will recollect that, after some years modelling and appearing in Hammer and Bond movies, her big breakthrough came in 1976.

In that year, she was cast alongside Patrick McNee and Gareth Hunt as Purdey, the kick-boxing crimefighter with the iconic bob hairdo, in The New Avengers. She beat 800 other actresses to the part, and it proved a major game changer for Joanna.

Joanna, whose stellar TV career has been honoured with both a Special Recognition Award at the National Television Awards in 2013 and a BAFTA Fellowship Award last year, will also discuss her other massively well-loved TV show in “It’s All About Me”.

After The New Avengers, she made a career move that took everyone by surprise, but proved an enormous hit. The actress, who was appointed an OBE in 1995, enjoyed immense success playing the dazzlingly degenerate fashion magazine editor Patsy Stone in Jennifer Saunders’ brilliant and still widely-adored sitcom, Absolutely Fabulous, which first exploded onto our screens in 1992.

Joanna was handed two very well-deserved BAFTA Awards for her performance as Patsy. “I didn’t know Jennifer at the time, but when her script was sent to me, it was the funniest thing I’d ever read. I had no doubts about it.”

In the live show, she will also talk about her acclaimed TV travel programmes. “People love the travel shows,” observes Joanna, “they love the fact that I don’t talk down to the people I meet on my travels. I don’t find food revolting or customs silly just because they’re from other countries. People tell me they love being with me on these journeys and say they learn things they didn’t know beforehand. That’s very flattering.”

Scrolling back through this extraordinary career, one of the reasons for its amazing longevity may well be Joanna’s appealing ability not to take herself too seriously. According to the actress, “It’s great to be able to find the fun in things. The ability to send yourself up helps you survive. If you don’t have that, you can get gloomy.”

There is absolutely no danger of anyone getting gloomy at “It’s all About Me”. Joanna concludes by expressing the hope that, “Audiences leave the theatre saying, ‘Hurray, that was fun!’ I want them to feel happy and that life is great and that getting old is great and that you can still have a go at anything.”

All in all, then, it promises to be as wonderful an evening as it has been a life. So, in summing up the prospects for the show, only one phrase will do: Absolutely Fabulous.

Northern Dates

13th October
Blackpool Opera House
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14th October
The Lowry, Salford
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24th October
Sheffield City Hall
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26th October
Leeds First Direct Arena
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27th October
Liverpool Philharmonic Hall
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28th October
York Barbican
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7th November
King George’s Hall, Blackburn
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For full UK 2018 tour dates and to book tickets for Joanna Lumley’s tour, “It’s All About Me” visit