If you look at Jennifer Saunders’ Twitter account, you’ll find that she’s no fan of our current government, but she has a preference when it comes to the next Tory leader and therefore our Prime Minister. “I’m hoping it’s Liz Truss, for comedic reasons,” says Absolutely Fabulous creator and one-half sketch comedy legends French and Saunders. “He’s just a very funny person. He has so many faces.”
Saunders, 64, is speaking to me on Zoom from her dressing room at Hammersmith’s Eventim Apollo, where she plays Mother Superior in Sister Act, the musical based on the 1992 Whoopi Goldberg film. The show was due to air in 2020, with Saunders’ old Paul Goldberg reprising his role as Moll, a gangster holed up in a convent. But Covid changed everything and now she’s playing opposite singer Beverley Knight and a cast of stage musical stalwarts.
Saunders had previously only sung in French and in Saunders spoofs and as the Fairy Godmother in Shrek 2, but her live technique “is getting better. At first I couldn’t keep time and I was singing a tune that It was just in my head. The band would start playing and one of us would finish first.
Her first musical cap is in a four-year period where she’s branched out from TV, film and stadium comedy tours to what we might call “proper” theatre, first in 2018 as fan Cathy Burke of Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windermere (a and friends) in, then Coward’s Bullet Spirit for Richard Eyre before and between lockdowns in 2020 and 2021.
Saunders trained as a drama teacher at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, where she met Dawn French, and wrote the script for the Spice Girls’ ill-fated jukebox show Viva Forever in 2012. Did she always aspire to straight roles, or musicals? “Not really,” she says — her default answer to most questions.
“I was just lucky enough to be asked. It came at a time when all the kids had grown up. [she has three daughters with her husband of 37 years, Ade Edmondson] So you are not so tied to the house. I’m not driven at all and I never miss work, although Eddie does: We always took jobs so that one of us was at home. Now it’s a matter of feeling that you’ll be happy: I can’t see at my age doing anything that’s going to be a trial.
Sanders’ life looks pretty enviable both professionally and personally. He has helped shape British humor since he and French joined the alternative comedy group Comic Strip in the early eighties, where he met Edmondson. Their long relationship (“It’s not a secret to talk about,” she told me in 2016) mirrors an enduring professional partnership and friendship with French (she shared a 2020 podcast, Titting About , began) and Joanna Lumley, Patsy to Adina in the sitcom phenomenon absolutely brilliant.
She and Edmondson divide their time between London and Dartmoor and are enthusiastic grandparents to five grandchildren aged between nine years and four months, courtesy of their eldest daughters Ella and Betty. “It gives you more life because you’re doing all the young things again, jumping in the sea and messing around, although it’s more tiring than I ever imagined,” he said. She says Youngest daughter Freya joined them in lockdown in Devon, where Sanders’ own mother died last November.
“It wasn’t that horrible, honestly,” she says. “It was her time and she was ready to go.” She had a few seizures and she slowly got worse, but she wasn’t bedridden for long, and we all bubbled up together so my brother and I could take a lot of care of her.” Saunders K. Her pilot father died of cancer a few years ago, and she herself had a nasty brush with breast cancer in 2010, but that’s one of the many things she refuses to fuss about. Is.
And unlike many comedy greats, she hasn’t soured with age. She is full of praise for the BBC, which supported French and Saunders and now Fab. And he has no time for those who claim that cancel culture or (the dreaded term) ‘Awareness’ is killing comedy.
“I don’t think so,” she says decisively. “Maybe it’s fear [being cancelled] Stopped anyone from going to anyone else, but maybe that’s a good thing. If I look back on some of the things we did, I think we were pretty bad. Now we are old and [have become] Stability. So let ‘awakening’ take over and see what happens. If you think of it as a favor, or think about who you might be hurting, that’s a good thing.” And with that, she logs off to don her outfit for Sister Act. Our The interview doesn’t end with a bang, but with a bang.
Sister Act Eventum runs at the Apollo until August 1. Buy tickets Here