How old is Joan Collins? Older than Taylor Swift but younger than the Queen. First treading the boards at the age of nine she has, as they say, touched life at many points. She was a Rank starlet, a sex symbol in 70s movies like The Stud, gossip column fodder, bankable TV personality, homeshopping diva, glamourpuss for the Saga generation, media tart, the fulcrum of TV’s Dynasty, Kipper, gay icon, Dame of the British Empire and Thatcherite.
She’s an octogenarian marvel who revels in anecdotes of a life well lived. The ravages of time have been kept at bay and she comes on stage twinkling and sparkling and as effervescent as fresh glass of champagne (although she says she prefers Sancerre). Clad in an eau-de-nil silk concoction she sits on a throne-like chair in the middle of the stage with be-kilted husband number five Percy Gibson who, she claims, is half Peruvian, half Scottish.
Assistants Alexis and Crystal (geddit?) are working the stalls with radio mics taking questions from audience members. ‘What was it like working with Paul Newman?’ ‘Wonderful,’ says Joan. ‘What’s your most prized possession? ‘My family photo albums.’ This could get tiresome. Such banalities are accompanied by footage thrown onto a big screen behind her – excerpts from films, home movies, snapshots of her with the stars. So relevant is the footage to the question asked that there must be a shifting definition of ‘unscripted’.
The anecdotes come thick and fast. ‘I [screen] tested with a lot of actors,’ she says of a chance to play Cleopatra (the role went to Elizabeth Taylor). ‘Well, saying they were wooden would be unkind to trees.’ Her comments echo her most beloved role, that of Alexis Colby Carrington in eight years of the fruity Dynasty. There are plenty of clips of Alexis chewing dialogue, slapping co-stars and generally having a ball. ‘Nobody takes me to the cleaners and to bed in the same day!’ Alexis says, rounding on Dexter, one of her love interests on the show. Intermingled are stories of growing up during the Blitz, her rise from Hollywood ingenue, her role as working mum and her philosophy of life.
It’s hugely entertaining and good clean fun that’s as slick and professional as she is. Even from the back circle the twinkle in her eye can be detected. Curveballs are not welcome, though they would make for a more thrilling and dangerous evening. One question thrown onto the stage: ‘Is Percy a true Scotsman?’ is batted well into the long grass. Collins is not called queen of the chatshow sofa for nothing.
She leaves the audience with a one last piece of advice: ‘If you live every day like it’s gonna be your last, one day you’ll be right’.