Actress, activist and mum Joanna Lumley, 72, talks tigers, tickets and taking life in her stride as she embarks upon her solo UK tour It’s All About Me.
Q. Tickets for your 31-date UK tour sold out amazingly quickly; how does that feel?
“It’s utterly thrilling that on the first day the show was selling out across the country. At first, I thought I was scared about this tour. When it was announced, my first concern was that I’d have to pay people to come. I thought: ‘we’ll have to close the dress circle and pay people to sit in the stalls.’ But now I’m so excited. The great thing about performing live is the audience.”
Q. You have homes in London and the Thames Valley; what kind of reaction do you get out and about?
“I travel on the Tube, and people are constantly talking to me as if I’m their friend. They’ll say ‘what we really liked about India was this…’ People love the travel shows and often come up and tell me they love that I don’t talk down to the people I meet. I don’t find food revolting or customs silly just because they’re from other countries. Chatting is pretty much what I do – I’m forever doing this at charity dos.”
Q. You’re a national treasure, thanks to your work on the Gurkha Justice Campaign and all the TV and film work; what’s the key to cramming so much in?
“When I look back on all the things I’ve done, it’s a gasp-making list! You realise if you say ‘yes’ to jobs, you do jobs. If you’re picky, you do more great work, but needs must when the devil drives! The ability to send yourself up helps you survive. If you don’t have that, you can get gloomy.”
Q. You beat 800 other actresses to the role of kickboxing Purdey in The Avengers; was that your big break, would you say?
“There had been no Avengers series for ten years – our version just caught people’s imagination. Maybe it was time for that kind of adventure story again. But it was also ludicrous! In one episode, a rat ate some nuclear waste and became the size of a double-decker bus.”
Q. Did you know Ab Fab, would be such a huge success to this day?
“I didn’t know Jennifer [Saunders} 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.”
Q. What do you want to give people on this UK tour?
“I want audiences to feel happy and go home feeling that life is great, getting old is great and you can still have a go at anything!”