Maureen Lipman

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

Maureen Lipman
Maureen Diane Lipman

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

Early life

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 community.[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.[6]


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.[7]

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.[8] 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[9], 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,[10], and which is still referred to 25 years later by politicians.[11]

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.[12] 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.[13]

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".[14]

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.[15]

Personal life and politics

Lipman is Jewish. She was married to dramatist Jack Rosenthal from 1974[16] 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,[17] 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.[18] She is on the editorial advisory board of Jewish Renaissance magazine.[19]

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".[20] 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.[21]

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.[23][24]

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.[25]

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”.[26][27][28] 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.[29][30]



Year Title Role Notes
1968 Up the Junction Sylvie
1969 The Smashing Bird I Used to Know Sarah AKA, School for Unclaimed Girls
1971 Gumshoe Naomi
1980 The Wildcats of St Trinian's Katy Higgs
1983 Educating Rita Trish
1985 Water Margaret Thatcher
1992 Carry On Columbus Countess Esmeralda
1999 Solomon & Gaenor Rezl
1999 Captain Jack Barbara Bostock
2002 The Pianist Edwarda Szpilman
2003 SuperTex Dora Breslauer
2004 Lighthouse Hill Audrey Davidson
2008 The Agent Charlie
2008 Caught in the Act Judith Herbst
2012 Metamorphosis Mrs. Samsa


Year Title Role Notes
1969–70, 1981 ITV Playhouse Liz, Little Satin Bottom/The Mayoress, Zoya Krein Episodes: "In a Cottage Hospital", "The People's Jack", "Last Night Another Dissident..."
1969–70, 1973 ITV Sunday Night Theatre Joanna Dibble, Barbara, Cathleen Episodes: "It's Called the Sugar Plum", "The Gingham Dog", "Long Day's Journey Into Night"
1970 Codename Lisa Episode: "A Walk with the Lions"
1970 Don't Ask Us – We're New Here Various TV series
1970 The Lovers Sandra Appleton Episode: "Brainwashing"
1971 Doctor at Large Maxine Episode: "Saturday Matinee"
1973 Thriller Liz Morris Episode: "File It Under Fear"
1973 Casanova '73 Gloria Episode: "1.3"
1973–1975 Crown Court Sarah Lewis Recurring role
1974 Armchair Cinema Annie Episode: "Regan"
1974 You'll Never Walk Alone Marjorie Pouncey TV short
1975 The Evacuees Sarah Miller TV film
1975 Three Comedies of Marriage Rachel Episode: "Bobby Bluesocks"
1975–76 Couples Marian Steinberg Main role
1976 The Sweeney Mrs. Smedley Episode: "Selected Target"
1976 Rogue Male Freda TV film
1978 A Soft Touch Alison Holmes TV series
1978 Play for Today Sharon Benson Episode: "Dinner at the Sporting Club"
1979 The Cannon and Ball Show Mrs. Paige Episode: "1.2"
1979 The Knowledge Brenda Weller TV film
1979–1981 Agony Jane Lucas Main role
1981 The Other 'Arf Margaret Thatcher (voice) Episode: "Away from It All"
1981 Dangerous Davies: The Last Detective Ena Lind TV film
1982 Jackanory Witch Episode: "The Witching Hour"
1982 Smiley's People Stella Craven TV miniseries
1982 Objects of Affection Val Episode: "Rolling Home"
1982 Outside Edge Maggie TV film
1984 See How They Run Miss Skillon TV film
1985 On Your Way, Riley Kitty McShane TV film
1985 Love's Labour's Lost The Princess of France TV film
1985 Victoria Wood: As Seen on TV Ruth Episode: "1.5"
1985 Theatre Night Marge Episode: "Absent Friends"
1985 Absurd Person Singular Jane Hopcroft TV film
1986 Screenplay Julie Episode: "Shift Work"
1986–87 All at Number 20 Sheila Haddon TV series
1987 A Little Princess Miss Minchin TV miniseries
1987 First Sight Tamara Episode: "Exclusive Yarns"
1989–1991 About Face Various Main role
1991 Re:Joyce! - A Celebration of the Work of Joyce Grenfell Joyce Grenfell TV film
1992 Bookmark Enid Blyton Episode: "Sunny Stories"
1995 Call up the Stars Joyce Grenfell TV film
1995 Agony Again Jane Lucas Main role
1996 Interview Day Shani Whittle TV film
1997 Cold Enough for Snow Shani Whittle TV film
1999 Oklahoma! Aunt Eller TV film
2002 George Eliot: A Scandalous Life Narrator TV film
2002 Coronation Street Lillian Spencer Guest role
2003 Jonathan Creek Louise Bergman Episode: "The Tailor's Dummy"
2003 Winter Solstice Marcia TV film
2004 Where the Heart Is Stella Sinclair Episode: "Body & Soul"
2005 The Fugitives Maggie Wynch Recurring role
2006 Doctor Who The Wire Episode: "The Idiot's Lantern"
2007 Sensitive Skin Sue Shortstop Episodes: "Three Lost Loves", "Here I Am"
2007 Casualty Hannah 'Hayley' Liddell Episode: "Behind Closed Doors"
2008 He Kills Coppers Lily Porter TV film
2009 Skins Aunt Elizabeth Episode: "Thomas"
2009 Minder Anita Richardson Episode: "The Art of the Matter"
2009–10 Ladies of Letters Irene Spencer Main role
2011 Tinga Tinga Tales Hummingbird (voice) Episode: "Why Hummingbird Hums"
2011 Holby City Bonnie Walters Episode: "Half Empty"
2012 Midsomer Murders Mags Dormer Episode: "Written in the Stars"
2014 The Vicar of Dibley Alicia Episode: "Comic Relief Special 2015"
2015 Bull Beverley Bull Main role
2015 The Job Lot Maggie Higgins Episode: "3.6"
2016–2018 Plebs Landlady Recurring role (series 3–4)
2018–present Coronation Street Evelyn Plummer Regular role

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 CBE 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.


  1. "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. "How We Met: Maureen Lipman & Lesley Joseph", The Independent, 12 July 2009, retrieved 17 May 2019
  7. Kate Dunn. Exit Through the Fireplace, 1998.
  8. Who's Who in the Theatre. 1 (17 ed.). London, UK: Pitman. p. 426. OCLC 567386306.
  9. ""You Got An Ology?" - 1987 - The Launch of the BT Beattie Ads..." Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  10. Lipman, Maureen; Phillips, Richard (1989). You Got An Ology. Robson Books. ISBN 0860515982.
  11. "Nigel Farage: Maureen Lipman to blame for too many people with degrees". The Telegraph. 4 April 2014. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  12. Deans, Jason (30 May 2002). "Lipman to pull pints at the Rovers". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 November 2019.
  13. "Maureen Lipman on soprano Florence Foster Jenkins". The Guardian. London. 3 November 2005. Retrieved 23 January 2011.
  14. Teakle, Kerry (10 August 2018). "Review: Maureen Lipman Is Up For It". The Wee Review. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  15. "Maureen Lipman joining Coronation Street". BBC News. BBC. 3 August 2018. Retrieved 19 September 2018.
  16. "Obituary: Jack Rosenthal". BBC News Online. 29 May 2004. Retrieved 30 March 2015.
  17. "Who's backing whom at the election?". BBC News Online. 21 April 2005. Retrieved 11 March 2007.
  18. "Labour Has Lost Me". Standpoint. Retrieved 29 October 2014.
  19. "Who We Are". Jewish Renaissance. Archived from the original on 17 January 2010. Retrieved 7 April 2010.
  20. 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.
  21. Lipman, Maureen (19 July 2006). "Letters: It is wrong to call Israel a racist state". The Independent. Archived from the original on 20 July 2006. Retrieved 5 September 2006.
  22. Lipman, Maureen (3 August 2006). "Prominent Jews speak out on the war". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 5 August 2006.
  23. "Lipman: I Might Leave UK Over Anti-Semitism". LBC. 27 January 2015. Archived from the original on 8 February 2015. Retrieved 8 February 2015.
  24. Gardner, Bill (27 January 2015). "Actress Maureen Lipman may leave Britain over attacks on Jews". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 8 February 2015.
  25. Firsht, Naomi (20 May 2015). "Maureen Lipman joins protest outside theatre staging The Siege". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 24 May 2015.
  26. Merrick, Rob (8 April 2018). "Hundreds join demonstration accusing Jeremy Corbyn of 'broken promise' on antisemitism". Independent.
  27. Badshah, Nadeem (8 April 2018). "Crowd descends on Labour HQ to protest over antisemitism". The Guardian.
  28. Coates, Sam (9 April 2018). "Maureen Lipman says Jeremy Corbyn must leave the stage". The Times.
  29. "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.
  30. Holehouse, Matthew (29 October 2014). "Maureen Lipman abandons Ed Miliband over Israel". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 9 April 2018.
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