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Joan Collins - One Night With Joan

Joan Collins
London International Arts Theatre Ltd
Leicester Square Theatre

Joan Collins OBE

“Life is a predator,” says Joan Collins, “You’ve got to eat it before it eats you.” This is one cool diva who seems always prepared and her evening of reminiscences is very carefully constructed. Although she endows her performance with a chatty relaxedness there is nothing spontaneous about it until it reaches its final segment of audience questions.

Beautifully-timed and tightly-scripted, it is a very sophisticated form of the lantern lecture delivered with style. She has assembled a succession of photographs of her many film roles but wittily used them to comment on her life.

Miss Collins does not take herself too seriously but she is very aware of whom she is and wants us to be too, but she also gives us delicious insights, like the occasion when being sued by a publisher trying to reclaim an advance for a book. She was advised by a friend to play it like her role in Dynasty, take her Alexis into the courtroom, complete with shoulder pads, and confound the publisher’s lawyers. She did—and she won.

With show business in the family background, from grandfather Isaac Schwartz who took the name Collins and on her mother’s side, but her agent father didn’t want her to go on the stage—not that that stopped her. She got her first review “Joan Collins is a very believable fairy” while still a tot and she takes us from there via RADA, rep at Margate and the Rank Charm School to Hollywood.

She doesn’t hold back from describing her relations with leading men and other divas, her marriages and her divorces. From Brando to Crawford, Burton to Davis (there is a particularly scathing encounter with her as they filmed The Virgin Queen) it’s an evening packed full of gossip.

“Kissing pipe-smoking Bing Crosby was like kissing an ashtray” is a typical example of her frankness, and she tells us exactly why she didn’t get cast as Cleopatra, complete with a clip of her screen-test. When she gets on to awards, the outspoken actress borrows one of her best lines from director Billy Wilder who told her "awards are like haemorrhoids—sooner or later every asshole gets one."

It is not all a success story. Hollywood can be cruel as an actress gets older and, though Joan Collins did take time out to become a wife and mother, keeping working meant taking roles in a string of horror movies and she is equally frank about tough times. Then a whole new world opened with Dynasty and her character's conflict with co-star Linda Evan’s character is vividly illustrated by clips of their cat fights as well as delighting fans with some out-takes.

One Night with Joan is a slick package smoothly delivered. Her husband, theatrical manager Percy Gibson, joins her to conduct the question and answer session, reading out the questions already handed in by the audience who are called on to identify themselves. In this final segment she displays a little more of the person rather than the performer but she is a quick-witted lady who still keeps control.

After touring dates in Northampton, High Wycombe, Guildford, Dartford, Basingstoke, Birmingham, Manchester, St Albans and Bournemouth, One Night With Joan returns for another short run at the Leicester Square Theatre 26–28 April 2013.

Reviewer: Howard Loxton