Maureen Lipman is singing, dancing and laughing her way back to the Fringe 50 years on with her own cabaret revue.
Maureen Lipman can remember her last time on the Fringe, just. Well, it was 53 years ago.
The year was 1965, and the beloved actress/writer/performer was studying at LAMDA. She took the place of a fellow student, “who got the part in Hair,” and was “the great white hope of the year”.
Limbering up for a return to Edinburgh after more than half a century, she’s been trying to dig up some memories, and some intel, on the play in which she performed, The Burn by Kerry Crabbe.
Alas, “I can only remember that we came out into the audience and I was wearing a turquoise jumpsuit and wiggled all over [late Sunday Times drama critic] Harold Hobson, who of course was totally titillated. So he gave us three stars, and we became something of a hit.
“Of course, at that time there were about twelve shows in Edinburgh,” she adds, before remembering the cultural cacophony that is the modern Fringe. “I think I’m about to get the shock of my life.”
The 72-year-old, though, is surely unshockable. To paraphrase the title of her new show, Maureen Lipman Is Up For It. That might mean taking Jeremy Corbyn to blistering task for not doing more to rid the Labour Party of anti-Semitism, or counselling caution in what she sees as a post-Harvey Weinstein witch-hunt. She doesn’t approve of reverse-engineered moralising – the idea that we can no longer enjoy the seasons of House of Cards starring Kevin Spacey – and similarly disapproves of the toppling of colonial-era statues.
“We have to put things in context. We know more now, and we’re a little bit more careful. But there are thought police out there who are stopping anything to do with humour. I can’t tell you the last time I heard a joke. I was thinking about asking the audience to throw me a subject and see if I could make a joke about it. But every joke that I remember will be horribly [politically] incorrect. And the tweets will be out all over Edinburgh,” she shudders.'There are thought police out there who are stopping anything to do with humour. 'Click To Tweet
Lipman, then, readily and refreshingly speaks her mind on most topics. And, just as eagerly, she’s hoping to reclaim the reputation of the good old-fashioned comedy revue with her new production.
“It’s not an Evening With…,” she clarifies, “a name-droppy show about that time I worked with Hugh Jackman. ’Cause I feel I’ve done that. It’s more, ‘what about this, what about that?’”
Onstage she’ll be telling jokes, recounting monologues, singing and quite possibly dancing, in the company of jazz singer Jacqui Dankworth and blues keyboardist/singer Charlie Wood. Nothing is off-limits, she says, as befits an entertainer who’s as joyfully versatile as she is sharply opinionated. True to unfettered Fringe spirit, she adds, “I’m quite happy for anything to happen. As long as it’s not violent.”
One of her riffs is a semi-comic, semi-serious point about the lot of aging actors.
“You get pushed into presentation work,” she says mildly. “So the minute that you’re no longer able to play doctors, detectives or wicked ladies, they say: ‘Oh, would you like to go bobbing about England, pointing at things?’
“And you say, ‘yeah, please!’, because you’re just so grateful to be on the television – and because you don’t watch it any more, you don’t know what it’s like. So, off you go, and everything you see, you have to take part in.”
So, while we can’t expect a turquoise jumpsuit, we can expect candid, self-deprecating observations from an entertainment legend.“I’m quite happy for anything to happen. As long as it’s not violent.”Click To Tweet
“I know – 53 years!” she exclaims again. “How can it be that Jack died 14 years ago,” she says of her late husband, the celebrated TV playwright Jack Rosenthal, “or it’s always bloody Christmas, or it’s always Friday night? I don’t get it. Is time really so distorting as you get older?”
Maureen Lipman Is Up For Explaining The Vagaries of Aging? Maybe that’s one for Fringe 2019.