Maureen Lipman says It’s a Jungle Out There'

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Maureen Lipman says It’s a Jungle Out There'


Fri, 16/12/2016 - 11:50


Moorhen Lipman and Pigasso
Moorhen Lipman and Pigasso
15 December, 2016

WHAT'S said in jest is often deadly seriously, as the world has discovered in recent months. And that goes for images too, as Donald Trump has proved conspicuously with his golden head of hair.

For a woman of many talents like Maureen Lipman, once of Muswell Hill, now of Paddington, events have provided her with the material for a satirical sketch book entitled It’s A Jungle Out There.

Maureen, 70 ­– currently playing the Wicked Fairy in Sleeping Beauty at Richmond Theatre – has painted what she describes as a Lipman-agerie of famous faces she has doodled on her iPad.

And there are risque jokes in her book too, as you might expect from the actress who came to fame playing the archetypal witty Jewish mother in those celebrated British Telecom TV commercials.

“They totally rewrote my professional life, opening lots of doors and closing others, but I’m never going to complain,” she says. “It’s been a fantastic career – and still is.”

As to her artistic abilities, she explains: “I need to doodle like a nine-month-old needs to teethe. It’s not an option. I itch to sketch like Angelina [Jolie] itches to adopt.

“I can’t physically take or make a phone call without a chewed biro and a scrap of paper, and the longer the conversation, the more alarming my doodle. Freud would have pinioned me to a couch; Lewis Carroll would have hired me.

“In my doodles, ears sprout, foliage, trees have legs, pointy people in silhouette chase spotted pigs in top hats. Psychologically, it doesn’t look good, but it actually keeps me sane.

“It may be chilling to the eye but it’s chicken soup for the mind.”

But what has brought about her new enterprise is modern technology, being able to doodle away in colour on an iPad, now christened the family doodle pad for Maureen, who once joined an evening class painting class and produced a calendar for the charity Myeloma UK.

She has in the past also displayed her delight in telling Jewish jokes and the attraction of punching home dire puns that leave you squirming.

“The art of punning goes back to the Sumerian cuneiform, which sounds like an under-wired bra,” she says, a fact she was told by none other than Irving Finkel, the hieroglyphics supremo at the British Museum. Shakespeare too helped.

Hence, at last, to Maureen’s pun-peppered pictures, including one of herself, which are explained by their titles – Elvers Presley, Nigel Farog, Ant and Duck, Wayne Kangarooney, Benedict Humperback, Oscar Wildebeest, Helena Bonny-Carthorse, Orson Wheels, Meryl Sheep, Moggie Smith and, royally, Camel Parker Bowles.

They probably won’t end up in the National Portrait Gallery but they do provide the joy of laughter to offset current agonies as she shares her own memories of life’s great influences upon her.

“No experience was ever richer than when I was hired as an understudy with the Old Vic company in my mid-20s,” she recalls. “There was Sir Laurence Olivier at the top, then Maggie Smith, Albert Finney, Frank Finlay, Billie Whitelaw, Geraldine McEwan...

“I understudied Diana Rigg. Oh, it didn’t get much better than that. Just 18-hour days, watching, learning.”

• It’s a Jungle Out There. By Maureen Lipman, Robson, Press, £12.99

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