Preview: Maureen Lipman is Up For It, Southbank Centre

Maureen Lipman picture by Jay Brooks

Maureen Lipman picture by Jay Brooks - Credit: Archant

Coronation Street actress Maureen Lipman performs a one-woman variety show on the Southbank this Christmas, just don’t call her a ‘National Treasure’

Her husband Jack Rosenthal wrote the 13th episode of Coronation Street, now Maureen Lipman is filming the 9,724th while preparing to perform her one-woman show over Christmas.

Setting down Street battleaxe Eveyln Plumber for the festive season, the actress will glam up to appear alongside jazz singer Jacqui Dankworth at the Southbank Centre in a pot pourri of sketches, jokes and music.

“I am reasonably calm,” says Lipman, who previously took Maureen Lipman Is ‘Up For It’ to this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.

“I am scared to do the show but only because I am generally scared to open a show and relearn my lines, but I’ve written new stuff. The newspapers call me a veteran or national treasure but I don’t want to talk abut my career or my past, or tell stories about when I worked with Hugh Jackman. I have done that.

“What interests me is variety. I like a bit of a song, a joke, a sketch and a rant - I have opinions about MeToo and the state of public toilets and what it’s like to be 72. I want something that makes me laugh and think and entertains me.

“If I could juggle with pigs or do acrobatics I would.

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“I ‘ve written myself an opening number about how I hate opening numbers, and I do a tango with someone from the audience - it’s the kind of show I would like to see, and if you don’t like it then there’s the door!”

Between Lipman’s parade of charactters, Dankworth, accompanied by husband and blues pianist Charlie Wood will sing classic jazz standards.

“The last time I did a one woman show, my friend said ‘you ought to get off every so often,’ and he’s right,” says Lipman, who moved from Muswell Hill to Paddington following Jack’s death in 2004.

“I love the classic songs from the era before me. You can have a moment with Jacqui singing beautifully.

“Once I have done it for a few nights - don’t come on the first night - I will ad-lib. Chuck it about. If I am not a hoot at least in three hours time you will be in bed.”

The Hull-born comic actress returned to Coronation Street in September after many years, but says it’s been “like going home”.

“It’s like peas in a pod, despite the fact that the last time I did it was in 2004.

“It’s an incredibly friendly family. I’m back up north - much as I love London, I feel I have been living as an ex pat down south for fifty years. And the job is not a stretch. She’s an old battleaxe which is not exactly hard for me, but she’s so fun. She’s such a cow, people love a battleaxe but she’s particularly noxious.”

Working with six directors on 12 scripts at a go, Lipman returns to her Manchester flat each night to learn lines and do it all again the next day.

“We forget that Coronation Street was revolutionary, there had never been a programme where people talked like we did,” she muses.

“When it started, (Creator) Tony Warren said to Jack: “What do you think?” He said: “I think it’s brilliant,” and Tony said: “Never mind what you think, what did your mother think? Put her on!”

“I have no idea what the future or past holds but it’s very seductive. I can understand how people go in for thee weeks and two minutes later they’ve been in it for 35 years. Being in a company of actors is always something I have loved, it’s not glamorous, it’s hard pegging but it suits me.”

Maureen Lipman is ‘Up For It’ is at the Purcell Room from December 17 until January 6.