It is hard to believe that Joan Collins is nearly 80. Whereas most ladies of a certain age are settling down for the quiet life, Collins continues to maintain her uncompromising standards of glamour, appear in television and films, and has created her own touring one- woman show One Night With Joan, currently playing at the Leicester Square Theatre. The stage is set up to have the appearance of a dressing room, from which Collins regales the audience with show business tales from her plush winged arm chair. She charts her entire life, from her first performance as a three- year old, to her time at RADA, her rise through 20th Century Fox, her transfer to television, her career as a model and philanthropist, and (of course) her scandalous private life.
She gives a fascinating insight into post-war Hollywood. The most shocking of her tales include Richard Burton’s strange sexual penchants, and the studio bosses placing her on speed (like Judy Garland before her) to make her lose weight. Reflecting upon her young self, the hopeful starlet, Collins treats her early career with a wonderful dollop of self- deprecating irony. She is highly aware of how shallow her image can make her seem and is ready to mock this. Admittedly, her anecdotal material is somewhat contrived and her delivery has a well-rehearsed air to it. Occasionally, she falters slightly with her wording or pronunciation, but makes up for it with plenty of showbiz aplomb. Entirely impressive!
The projection montage of images and video clips charting Collins’s career have been pasted together with little thought. Too many images of Collins are constantly flashing up in front of the audience’s faces, making it easy to lose sight of Collins herself on stage. Although her involvement in the film industry is fascinating, it would’ve been great if this were balanced with an insight into her stage career, particularly her involvement in Coward’s Private Lives in the early 90s.
Behind the showbiz façade, Collins’s humility is evident, making her a likeable figure to spend the evening with. Although she makes the audience feel welcome, her slightly impersonal delivery is incongruous against the proposed intimacy of her set, which suggests a private dialogue with the audience. Collins is to be commended for her prodigious output of work, as she continues to build her career today. Her motto “the harder the work the luckier I get” is an apt one for us all.
After One Night With Joan has finished its London tenure at the Leicester Square Theatre, it will be followed by a regional tour of the UK. More details of this can be found on Joan Collins’s official website. One Night With Joan is running at the Leicester Square Theatre until 28th April 2013. For more information and tickets, see the Leicester Square Theatre website.