Looking at Lumley’s Wikipedia or IMDb pages results in a kind of awe. There’s very wide range of roles - not only on screen, but also on stage. In addition to all these roles are a plethora of other works; Lumley has presented several documentaries including searches for the source of the Nile and Noah’s Ark. Her charity work has resulted in National Treasure status in Nepal, and an Order of the British Empire. It’s no surprise that this is an actress renowned for her versatility.
Scanning through her list of roles, we have everything from modern melodrama (‘The Wolf of Wall Street’) to classic British comedy (‘Absolutely Fabulous’), action (‘The New Avengers’), and Comic Relief (‘Upstairs Downstairs Abbey’). At last count, Lumley had racked up 43 film roles and 42 television roles. Arguably her most well-known is the perpetually sloshed Patsy in 'Absolutely Fabulous', a character she managed to portray incredibly convincingly, despite having a rather posh and blue-blooded manner herself. Patsy became something of an icon in the 1990s and early 2000s, and she’s a character Lumley always seems happy to return to; ‘Ab Fab: The Movie’ is slated for release this year.
Apart from her impressive filmography, Lumley spends a good deal of time on several other ventures, including her notable charity work, very well-made documentaries, and cars. Lumley’s first love was a 1949 Rolls Royce Silver Wraith, and she once stalked a Bentley Continental, even leaving a note to the car to convince its owner to let her buy it. Her charity work focuses on the Gurkhas of Nepal and their rights to settle in Britain as a result of their service to the country. Following the awareness raised by her campaign, there were calls for her to join British Parliament. Other than Jeremy Clarkson (let’s not go there yet) I can’t think of any other celebrities that have that kind of support.
But some of her best work has to be her documentaries. These include ‘Nile,’ ‘Greek Odyssey,’ and ‘Trans-Siberian Adventure’. They’re well-made and written, with Lumley's soft voice a soothing narration. But what sets these films apart is how Lumley experiences the places she visits. Unlike some other presenters, who either remain at arm’s length, or make the visit all about them, Lumley makes it about the place and its people. It becomes personal, and somehow inspires you to see the place yourself in a way that a travel show probably won’t. If you watch no other pieces of Lumley’s work, at least watch ‘Nile’, because it’s really very good.
Lumely might be turning 70 on the 1st May 2016, but that doesn’t seem to be slowing her down. Hopefully after ‘Ab Fab: The Movie’ we’ll see more fabulous docos and more to make us smile.