Re: Joyce!

Re: Joyce!


Reviewed by: Caro Ness

Whether or not you are a Joyce Grenfell fan, this DVD is an amusing way to spend an hour or so, in the company of a major talent. And by that I mean not only Joyce, but the enormously gifted Maureen Lipman, who plays her!

For those who remember Grenfell only from her roles as rather gauche hockey teachers in films like The Belles Of St Trinians, it is a revelation. For those who knew her as a raconteur and hugely gifted comedienne, it is a wonderful wallow in nostalgia and a welcome reminder that this woman, with her rambling monologues, was paving the way for current favourites, such as Victoria Wood, Julie Walters and Dawn French.

Grenfell was remarkably observant of the world around her and gave wickedly accurate impersonations of people, for example women at the local WI, of which she was president. She fell into acting accidently by giving one such impersonation at a society do, at which there was a producer who asked her to perform at his next review. From such small beginnings she went on to entertain the troops as far away as India and to have shows in London and New York.

Lipman gives an uncannily accurate portrayal, down to the curious use of her mouth whilst speaking and her often slightly self-conscious style of comportment. Her voice is perhaps a little thin in some of the musical numbers, but that is a minor quibble, as Denis King accompanies her very ably on the piano. It is clear from her performance that she was, and is, a dedicated Grenfell groupie(!) and has studied her inside and out to give a performance that is truly worthy.

This theatrical piece is also fascinating because it intersperses Joyce's review pieces with wonderful snippets of biography. For example, Grenfell worked, before she took to comedy, as a radio critic for The Observer and by writing occasional pieces for Punch. Similarly, whilst her voice betrayed her aristocratic connections, I had no idea, before watching this, that she was related, through her mother, to the Astors and gathered much of her comedic ammunition whilst staying with them at Cliveden and through her father's society friends, since he was an architect who worked with Lutyens.

The DVD ends, full circle, with a song and the bitter-sweet news that Joyce Grenfell died of cancer of the eyes in the November before she was due to become a Dame of the British Empire, for her glittering contribution to the entertainment industry. There are probably not many of us who remember her now, or her accomplishments, so we rely on film performances to refresh our memories.

I DO urge you to watch this DVD. It never fails to raise a smile, or a knowing arched eyebrow. It is a frothy delight from beginning to end, marred only by the fact that because it is an old recording of a stage "play", it is rather staged - pardon the pun - and the sound is not quite as good as it could be.

Reviewed on: 04 Aug 2004
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Maureen Lipman celebrates the life and comedy of Joyce Grenfell.
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Director: John Reardon

Writer: James Roose-Evans, Maureen Lipman

Starring: Maureen Lipman, Denis King

Year: 1991

Runtime: 100 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: UK


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