Maureen Lipman

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Maureen Lipman
Maureen Diane Lipman

(1946-05-10) 10 May 1946 (age 72)
Spouse(s)Jack Rosenthal
(m. 1974–2004, his death)
ChildrenAmy Rosenthal, Adam Rosenthal

Maureen Diane Lipman, CBE (born 10 May 1946)[1] is an English film, theatre and television actress, columnist and comedian.

Early life[edit]

Lipman was born in Hull, East Yorkshire, England, the daughter of Maurice Julius Lipman and Zelma Pearlman.[1] Her father was a tailor; he used to have a shop between the Ferens Art Gallery and Monument Bridge. Lipman grew up Jewish and found post-war Hull a welcoming place for the Jewish minority.[2]

She attended Newland School for Girls in Hull,[3] and became interested in performing as a youth; Lipman performed in school shows, attended an early Beatles concert, and watched Elizabeth Taylor's Butterfield 8 fifteen times.[4]

Her first performances at home included impersonations of Alma Cogan; "a nice Jewish girl, she was big in our house",[5] and was encouraged into an acting career by her mother, who used to take her to the pantomime and push her onto the stage. Lipman trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.[citation needed]


Lipman worked extensively in the theatre following her début in a stage production of The Knack at the Palace Theatre, Watford. In order to get the post she pretended that a documentary producer wanted to follow her finding her first job – this was a lie but it seemed to work.[6]

She was a member of Laurence Olivier's National Theatre Company at the Old Vic from 1971–73 and of the Royal Shakespeare Company for its 1973 Stratford season.[7] She made an early film appearance in Up the Junction (1968).

After early appearances in the sitcoms The Lovers, and Doctor at Large, and a role in The Evacuees (1975), Lipman first gained prominence on television in the 1979 situation comedy Agony, in which she played an agony aunt with a troubled private life.

She played the lead role in the television series All at No 20 and took on a range of diverse characters when starring in the series About Face. She is known for playing Joyce Grenfell in the biographical show Re: Joyce!, which she co-wrote with James Roose-Evans, and another memorable character "Beatrice Bellman" ("Beatie/BT"), a Jewish grandmother in a series of television commercials for British Telecom. She has continued to work in the theatre for over thirty years, playing, among other roles, Aunt Eller in the National Theatre's Oklahoma!.

In 2006 Lipman played Maggie Wych in the children's television show The Fugitives. In 2002, she played snooty landlady Lillian Spencer in Coronation Street, and the titular character's mother in Roman Polanski's award-winning film The Pianist. More recently, she has narrated two television series on the subject of design, one for UKTV about Art Deco and one about 20th century design for ITV/Sky Travel. In 2003 she appeared in Jonathan Creek in the episode "The Tailor's Dummy".

She also wrote a monthly column for Good Housekeeping magazine for over ten years, which spawned several biographical books, including "How Was It For You?", "Something To Fall Back On", "Thank You For Having Me", "You Can Read Me Like A Book" and "Lip Reading". More recently, Lipman penned a weekly column in The Guardian in the newspaper's G2 section. She performed as a villain in the 2006 series of Doctor Who in the episode entitled "The Idiot's Lantern" as The Wire. From November 2005 to April 2006 she played Florence Foster Jenkins in the Olivier Award nominated show Glorious! at the Duchess Theatre in London's West End.[8]

After her husband died in May 2004 she completed his autobiography By Jack Rosenthal, and played herself in her daughter's four-part adaptation of the book, Jack Rosenthal's Last Act on BBC Radio Four in July 2006. She has created several volumes of autobiography from her Good Housekeeping columns and recently published The Gibbon's In Decline But The Horse Is Stable, a book of animal poems which is illustrated by established cartoonists, including Posy Simmonds and Gerald Scarfe, to raise money for Myeloma UK, to combat the cancer to which she lost her husband.

She has also appeared on Just a Minute, The News Quiz, That Reminds Me, This Week and Have I Got News for You. In 2007, Lipman appeared as a celebrity contestant on Comic Relief Does The Apprentice to raise money for Comic Relief. The show saw her helping to run a funfair. Later in 2007, she made a guest appearance in Casualty; this was followed by an appearance in a December 2011 episode of the Casualty-spin off Holby City, playing a different character.

In May 2008, she appeared in the BBC documentary series Comedy Map of Britain. She currently writes for The Oldie. On Sunday 11 January 2009, BBC Four was devoted to a "Maureen Lipman Night". On 5 February 2009, she appeared in the third series of teen drama Skins, in the episode entitled "Thomas" as Pandora Moon's Aunt Elizabeth.

She appeared twice on The Paul O'Grady Show during its run, once alongside Julie Walters to promote her most-recent book Past-It Notes, the other to speak about her appearance as the wheelchair-bound Madame Armfeldt in the Sondheim musical A Little Night Music, showing at the Menier Chocolate Factory. In both of these appearances, she also spoke briefly about her role as Irene Spencer in the ITV3 comedy Ladies of Letters, in which she leads alongside Anne Reid. The show's first series started in 2009, and returned for a second series in 2010, shown divided into two five-week stints.

From October 2010 to February 2011, Lipman starred in a production of J B Priestley's When We Are Married at the Garrick Theatre. In 2012 she directed and appeared in a production of Barefoot in the Park on tour and starred in Old Money at the Hampstead Theatre. In 2013 she starred in Daytona at The Park Theatre followed by a tour, and in 2014 a season at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. In 2015 she starred with James Dreyfus in Mary Chase's play Harvey at Birmingham Rep, on tour and at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. In 2016 she starred in My Mother Said I Never Should at the St. James Theatre. In 2017 she starred with Felicity Kendal in a revival of Lettice and Lovage at the Menier Chocolate Factory. In 2018 she starred with Martin Shaw in The Best Man at the Playhouse Theatre, as well as returning to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for the first time in fifty years with a one-woman show of jokes and storytelling called "Up For It".[9]

In August 2018 Lipman joined the cast of Coronation Street, playing Evelyn Plummer, the grandmother of Tyrone Dobbs. This is the second time she has appeared in the series. In 2002 Lipman played Lillian Spencer, employed by Fred Elliott to run the Rovers Return.[10]

Personal life and politics[edit]

Lipman is Jewish. She was married to dramatist Jack Rosenthal from 1974[11] until his death in 2004, and has had a number of roles in his works. She has two children, writers Amy and Adam Rosenthal. Lipman was formerly a Labour Party supporter,[12] but declared in October 2014, that she will no longer be voting Labour due to the party's support for recognition of Palestine. At the time, Labour was led by Ed Miliband; the first-ever Jewish person to do so.[13] She is on the editorial advisory board of Jewish Renaissance magazine.[14]

Lipman supports the work of the Burma Campaign UK, Europe's largest NGO regarding Burma (Myanmar). Lipman supports the process of democratisation in the country. Lipman also supports the work of Prospect Burma, a non-political charity that offers Burmese students the opportunity to study at universities outside of Burma. Lipman spoke on behalf of Prospect Burma in the BBC Radio 4 Charity Appeal, which was broadcast on 6 September 2009.

Lipman supported Israel during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah conflict. On 13 July 2006, in a debate on the BBC's This Week, she argued that "human life is not cheap to the Israelis, and human life on the other side is quite cheap actually, because they strap bombs to people and send them to blow themselves up." These comments were condemned by columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown who said "Brutally straight, she sees no equivalence between the lives of the two tribes".[15] Lipman responded to Alibhai-Brown's accusation of racism by arguing that the columnist had deliberately misrepresented Lipman's comments as generalisations about Muslims rather than specific comments about terrorists.[16]

In The Jewish Chronicle, Lipman argued that media reporting of the conflict was "heavily distorted":

In a January 2015 interview on LBC radio, Lipman said she was considering emigrating to the United States or Israel in response to perceived increased anti-semitism in the UK.[18][19]

In May 2015, Maureen Lipman joined pro-Israel groups including Zionist Federation in a protest outside the London premiere of a Palestinian play, The Siege, at Battersea Arts Centre.[20]

In April 2018, Lipman criticised Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn for Antisemitism in the Labour Party and the party's reputed failure to address the issue. Lipman said she attended the protest “as a disenfranchised socialist”. She identified with a placard reading “Corbyn made me a Tory”.[21] She had also previously criticised the previous Leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband in 2014, when she announced she was no longer a supporter of the party due to Miliband's support for a parliamentary motion in favour of recognising the State of Palestine.[22][23]

Awards and nominations[edit]

  • She was awarded the Laurence Olivier Theatre Award for Best Comedy Performance in 1985 (1984 season) for See How They Run.
  • She was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Hull in 1994.
  • Her show, Live and Kidding, performed at the Duchess Theatre, was nominated for a 1998 Laurence Olivier Theatre Award for Best Entertainment of the 1997 season.
  • She was made a CBE in 1999.
  • In 2003 she was nominated as Best Supporting Actress for The Pianist (2002), at the Polish Film Awards.




  1. ^ a b "Maureen Lipman biography". Retrieved 7 February 2018.
  2. ^ Lipman, Maureen (Winter 2006–2007). "Maureen Lipman in conversation with David Aaronovitch". The Jewish Quarterly. 204. Retrieved 18 May 2017.
  3. ^ "Maureen Lipman films TV doc at her old Hull school". Hull Daily Mail. 15 October 2012. Archived from the original on 25 November 2012. Retrieved 15 September 2013.
  4. ^ Lipman, Maureen (28 August 2014). "Forty pairs of abandoned knickers: Maureen Lipman on the Fab Four in Hull". The New Statesman. Retrieved 21 November 2014.
  5. ^ "Radio 4 Desert Island Discs - Maureen Lipman". BBC. Retrieved 7 February 2018.
  6. ^ Kate Dunn. Exit Through the Fireplace, 1998.
  7. ^ Who's Who in the Theatre. 1 (17 ed.). London, UK: Pitman. p. 426. OCLC 567386306.
  8. ^ "Maureen Lipman on soprano Florence Foster Jenkins". The Guardian. London. 3 November 2005. Retrieved 23 January 2011.
  9. ^ Teakle, Kerry (10 August 2018). "Review: Maureen Lipman Is Up For It". The Wee Review. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  10. ^ "Maureen Lipman joining Coronation Street". BBC News. BBC. 3 August 2018. Retrieved 19 September 2018.
  11. ^ "Obituary: Jack Rosenthal". BBC News. BBC. 29 May 2004. Retrieved 30 March 2015.
  12. ^ "Who's backing whom at the election?". BBC News. 21 April 2005. Retrieved 11 March 2007.
  13. ^ "Labour has Lost Me". Standpoint. Retrieved 29 October 2014.
  14. ^ "Who We Are". Jewish Renaissance masthead. Archived from the original on 17 January 2010. Retrieved 7 April 2010.
  15. ^ Alibhai-Brown, Yasmin (17 July 2006). "Nothing but anti-Arab racism can fully explain the behaviour of the Israelis". The Independent. Archived from the original on 19 July 2006. Retrieved 31 July 2006.
  16. ^ Lipman, Maureen (19 July 2006). "Letters". The Independent. Archived from the original on 20 July 2006. Retrieved 5 September 2006.
  17. ^ Lipman, Maureen (3 August 2006). "Prominent Jews speak out on the war". Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 5 August 2006.
  18. ^ "Lipman: I Might Leave UK Over Anti-Semitism". Leading Britain's Conversation. 27 January 2015. Archived from the original on 8 February 2015. Retrieved 8 February 2015.
  19. ^ Gardner, Bill (27 January 2015). "Actress Maureen Lipman may leave Britain over attacks on Jews". The Telegraph. Retrieved 8 February 2015.
  20. ^ Firsht, Naomi (20 May 2015). "Maureen Lipman joins protest outside theatre staging The Siege". Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 24 May 2015.
  21. ^ Osborne, Simon (8 April 2018). "'Corbyn made me a TORY' Maureen Lipman blasts Labour leader at anti-Semitism demonstration".
  22. ^ "Actress who said "Corbyn made me a Tory" over anti-Semitism made almost identical claims against Ed Miliband for supporting Palestine in 2014 - Evolve Politics". 9 April 2018.
  23. ^ Holehouse, Matthew (29 October 2014). "Maureen Lipman abandons Ed Miliband over Israel". Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  24. ^
  25. ^ "The Agent (2008/I)". Retrieved 29 June 2010.
  26. ^ "The Agent – Filmhouse Cinema Edinburgh". Archived from the original on 17 August 2009. Retrieved 29 June 2010.
  27. ^ Lee, Ann (10 October 2016). "The Crystal Maze gives us our first look at Maureen Lipman as Mumsey". Metro. DMG Media. Retrieved 4 May 2017.

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