Culture Editor Olivia Boyce reviews Joanna Lumley’s fabulous ‘It’s All About Me’ tour at the Birmingham Symphony Hall
Headlining the Birmingham Comedy festival this year is a name that will be familiar to pretty much everyone. Bringing her ‘It’s All About Me’ tour to a sold-out Symphony Hall, Joanna Lumley arrives with her trademark wit and comedic talent alongside a nostalgic look back over her career, and some deeply moving anecdotes, in a brilliantly entertaining evening with one of acting’s greats.
The evening is split into two distinct sections, the first led by Lumley as she takes the audience on a retrospective back through her career and life. After taking the stage to rapturous applause, Lumley began to tell delightful anecdotes about starting out in the acting and modelling industry, from the trials of obtaining an equity card to the pressures of modelling and the odd feeling that comes with finding yourself working with stars such as Peter O’Toole, whose films you had watched in a cinema just years before. It is a fascinating look at the process beyond that which audiences see on screen, and is balanced by clips from her work that are given new light by Lumley’s own discussions.
There are clips from the iconic New Avengers TV show, which truly launched Lumley into stardom, accompanied by a hilarious story of the truth behind one of the most iconic stunts. There is a clip from one of Lumley’s travel adventures, a travel-filled upbringing becoming a travel-filled career, as she ingeniously and somewhat hilariously adapts a bra into a pair of footwear. These moments are great fun, and are punctuated by lesser known clips including one of a young Lumley talking about being discovered as a model, her gift of comic timing obvious even then. It creates a conversational tone for the evening that lends her personal stories even more weight, and proves as nostalgic for Lumley as for the appreciative audience.
The second half of the evening is somewhat more informal, with Lumley answering questions written by audience members. These are read by Clive Tulloh, who has worked with Lumley on almost all of her travel programmes, and he does a fabulous job as both a wise-cracking host and a friend capable of reminding Lumley of specific moments in her illustrious career. The questions range from the fairly mundane ‘what is your favourite brand of lipstick?’, to the bizarre and somewhat unrepeatable, through to the profound and personal. It makes for a brilliant conclusion to the evening, leading to stories about kissing ‘Leo DiCaprio’, meeting Donald Trump (“Patsy would make mincemeat of him”) and attempting to work out what some of her lesser known work was even about.
One particularly touching moment arose when an audience member asked whether Lumley, who appeared to be completely confident and at ease on stage, had always found she had this confidence, and how she coped with the less happy times she may experience. Lumley responded touchingly, describing how she has always loved to perform, but that sometimes she like many finds herself with an inexplicable sadness. She offered advice from her own perspective, and it was clear that it was a powerful moment that had moved the audience, as well as Lumley herself.
The evening ended with a standing ovation, the Symphony Hall filled with an audience who had thoroughly enjoyed the few hours they had spent in the company of one of Britain’s national treasures. Joanna Lumley most definitely is a treasure, in her wit, her love of the world, her curiosity for travel, her honesty and her happiness. She is, simply put, a marvellous woman, and ‘It’s All About Me’ is a wonderful evening not to be missed.