Having Joan Collins talking at you for an hour and a half? It’s undoubtedly some people’s idea of hell, but one thing’s for sure – it was never going to be boring. A stalwart of entertainment on both sides of the pond, Collins’ career spans seven – yes, seven – decades; she’s worked everywhere from the West End to Broadway to Hollywood to some gross football changing room in the back end of nowhere to film that Snickers ad. Indeed Collins has seen and done it all and is more than happy to share, all the while looking beyond fabulous. Indeed, if this were a review of Collins’ appearance – which perhaps it should be; given the moodily soft lighting, intricate lace outfits and immaculate makeup, it’s certainly the most considered element of the show – one would have little choice but to rave. But it’s not, and although immensely enjoyable, the show’s actual substance isn’t quite as impressive as Collins’ ageless beauty.
The most fascinating part of the evening comes long before the interval. Although later roles are more readily recalled in pop culture consciousness, Collins in fact started out as a babe of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Never quite losing the ‘rising star’ tag, she nevertheless acted in a wide range of films (rubbing shoulders with the likes of Gene Kelly, Marilyn Monroe and – shock! Horror! – Joan Crawford), and was even considered for Elizabeth Taylor’s role in the 1963 epic Cleopatra. Her assessment of this chapter of her life is surprisingly charming: the namedropping is casual, and with great humour she paints a picture of herself as a chirpy albeit marginalised Hollywood player, making fun of what she describes as her squeaky voice and longstanding battles with her weight.
It’s impressive how readily and lucidly Collins then describes the career nosedive that followed: she was a globally recognised star but completely broke with, at this point, a large family to support. Periods of unemployment were followed by forays into dodgy B Movie territory. This naked honesty is the closest we get to the real Joan Collins; there’s a reluctance to share her personal life, but this is seemingly a creative decision rather than a desire for privacy: she glosses over her happy childhood, perhaps because it was drama free, and half of her oft-referenced five ex-husbands are lucky to get a mention, given how short-lived they were and irrelevant to the now they are. Talk of her equally famous sister, meanwhile, is curiously absent, as is talk of her many children and grandchildren (somewhat understandably).
By the 80s Collins had landed the role that changed her life – Alexis in Dynasty. From here on in, Collins’ life, professional and personal, became a media circus. In reiterating it, her behaviour becomes more colourful: there are dashes of Alexis, the “darling!” quota rises, and the exuberance, wit and razor sharp comic timing flourishes. She may be representing herself tonight, but she’s still acting. Rather than feel cheated, her adoring fans eat it up.
The evening concludes with a Q&A section with the audience. While it’s cute that her husband and producer of the show Percy Gibson hosts it – plus interesting to see the two’s chemistry – this part of the show is a disappointment. It lasts only a few minutes, Collins’ off script answers are a little rambling, and only the most boring, previously-vetted questions are asked. An anticlimax, then, to a problematic show, albeit the sum of its parts is still largely positive. While the over focus on her diva side was certainly entertaining, it was to the detriment of the warm, charming, softly spoken, well mannered woman underneath.