Joanna Lumley – It’s All About Me at Portsmouth Guildhall review: ‘An evening guaranteed to banish the blues’

Joanna Lumley
Joanna Lumley

The absolutely fabulous Joanna Lumley bounced on stage in her sparkly trainers for an evening guaranteed to banish the blues.

Lumley talked, with her familiar breathless enthusiasm, genuine joy and self-deprecation, about her life and career, illustrated by film clips and memorabilia taken from her father's much-travelled trunk.

She recounted her teenage attempts to get into drama school, early days in modelling – a very funny demonstration of how a well-brought-up young lady gets into a car (keep your legs together at all times) – through her first acting jobs of one-liners in zombie films and Bond Girl to the big breakthrough, when she was cast as Purdey in The New Avengers. This was the cue for a great story revealing her guts and strength of character, when she was flown around Oxfordshire, hanging by a rope ladder from a helicopter, clutching a bottle of champagne – a task, she discovered later, refused by her stuntwoman.

She touched on her television documentaries, recalling her time as a castaway on a desert island with barely enough to keep her alive, and displaying a surviving artefact – the pair of shoes she made from her bra.

Absolutely Fabulous was, understandably, at the heart of the evening. Patsy allowed Lumley to fully showcase her extraordinary radical, comic talent. Her memories of the episode in which Patsy drunkenly falls into an empty grave at a funeral revealed her serious side and how she felt a curious sense of peace while lying in the grave during the rest of the scene. There followed a hilarious recounting of her antics with Jennifer Saunders, playing Patsy and Edina as ancient, physically and morally disintegrated characters.

Lumley was joined in the second half by Clive Tulloh, to answer a lively batch of audience questions – more fodder for spontaneous wit, fun and delight and handled with characteristic honesty.

Lumley's formidable intelligence and gratitude for the path her life has taken shone throughout. Her positive approach to life is the belief that if you smile and tell yourself that things are all right, they will be.

Lumley goes out of her way to smile at people and one suspects that they will always smile back. The capacity house at Portsmouth Guildhall certainly did.