Maureen Lipman

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

Early life

Lipman was born in Hull, East Yorkshire, England, the daughter of Maurice Julius Lipman and Zelma Pearlman. 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 community.

She attended Newland School for Girls in Hull, 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.

Her first performances at home included impersonations of Alma Cogan; "a nice Jewish girl, she was big in our house", 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.


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.

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. 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 situation comedy Agony (1979), in which she played an agony aunt with a troubled private life. In her role as Stella Craven in Smiley's People (1982), Lipman appeared with Alec Guinness.

She played the lead role in the television series All at No 20 (1986–87) and took on a range of diverse characters when starring in the series About Face (1989–91). She is known for playing Joyce Grenfell in the biographical show Re: Joyce!, which she co-wrote with James Roose-Evans.

In 1987, she was cast as the character "Beatrice Bellman" ("Beatie/BT"), a Jewish grandmother in a series of television commercials for British Telecom, a role which became sufficiently well-known to launch a book You Got An Ology in 1989, and which is still referred to 25 years later by politicians.

She has continued to work in the theatre for over thirty years, playing, among other roles, Aunt Eller in the National Theatre's Oklahoma!.

Lipman played the titular character's mother in Roman Polanski's film The Pianist (2002). She appeared as snooty landlady Lillian Spencer in Coronation Street for a six-week period in 2002. The character was employed by Fred Elliott (John Savident) to run The Rovers Return Inn. Lipman played Maggie Wych in the children's television show The Fugitives broadcast in 2006. 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 formed the basis for several autobiographical 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". Lipman has also contributed 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.

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. Her anthology, The Gibbon's In Decline But The Horse Is Stable, is 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".

In August 2018, Lipman re-joined the cast of Coronation Street, this time playing Evelyn Plummer, the long-lost grandmother of Tyrone Dobbs (Alan Halsall). This is the second time she has appeared in the series having appeared previously for a period in 2002.

Personal life and politics

Lipman is Jewish. She was married to dramatist Jack Rosenthal from 1974 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, but declared in October 2014, that she would 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 Jew to do so. She is on the editorial advisory board of Jewish Renaissance magazine.

Lipman supports the work of the Burma Campaign UK, Europe's largest NGO regarding Myanmar (Burma). 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 university overseas. 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". 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.

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 antisemitism in the UK.

In May 2015, 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.

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”. 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.




Awards and nominations

  • 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 in 1999.
  • In 2003 she was nominated as Best Supporting Actress for The Pianist (2002), at the Polish Film Awards.
  • In October 2019, Lipman won the award for "Best Newcomer" at The Inside Soap Awards 2019 for her portrayal of Evelyn Plummer in Coronation Street.