Dame Maureen Diane Lipman DBE (born 10 May 1946[1]) is an English actress, columnist and comedian. She trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and her stage work has included appearances with the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company. She was made a dame in the 2020 Queen's Birthday Honours for services to charity, entertainment and the arts.

Maureen Lipman
Maureen Lipman in 2023
Maureen Diane Lipman

(1946-05-10) 10 May 1946 (age 78)
Alma materLondon Academy of Music and Dramatic Art
Occupation(s)Actress, writer, comedian, political activist
Years active1968–present
(m. 1974; died 2004)
PartnerGuido Castro (2008–2021)
Children2, including Amy Rosenthal

Early life and education


Lipman was born on 10 May 1946 in Hull, East Riding of 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 lived in Northfield Road, Hull[3] and attended Wheeler Primary School.[4]

Lipman then attended Newland School for Girls in Hull,[5] and in her youth became interested in performing. She performed in school productions, attended an early Beatles concert, and watched Elizabeth Taylor's Butterfield 8 fifteen times.[6] Her first performances at home included impersonations of Alma Cogan; "a nice Jewish girl, she was big in our house",[7] and she 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.[8]





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.[9][10]

Lipman was a member of Laurence Olivier's National Theatre Company at the Old Vic from 1971 to 1973 and of the Royal Shakespeare Company for its 1973 Stratford season.[11]

Lipman has continued to work in the theatre for over fifty years, playing, among other roles, Aunt Eller in the National Theatre's Oklahoma!.[10][12]

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]

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]



After early appearances in the sitcoms The Lovers, and Doctor at Large, and a role in The Evacuees (1975),[15] Lipman first gained prominence on television in the situation comedy Agony (1979–81), 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 performed the Joyce Grenfell monologue The Committee for the first time on The Green Tie on the Little Yellow Dog, which was recorded 1982, and broadcast by Channel 4 in 1983.[16]

She played the lead role in the television series All at No 20[17] (1986–87) and took on a range of diverse characters when starring in the series of comedy plays About Face (1989–91).[18] She is known for playing Joyce Grenfell in the biographical show Re: Joyce!,[19] which she co-wrote with James Roose-Evans.

In 1996 she appeared in the BBC comedy drama Eskimo Day, written by husband Jack Rosenthal and directed by Piers Haggard, about the trials and tribulations of three young would-be students as they arrive with their families at Queens' College, Cambridge, on interview day.[20][21][22] There was a sequel, Cold Enough for Snow, in 1997.

She appeared as snooty landlady Lillian Spencer in Coronation Street for six episodes in 2002. The character was employed by Fred Elliott (John Savident) to run The Rovers Return Inn.[23] She re-joined the cast of Coronation Street in August 2018, this time playing Evelyn Plummer, the long-lost grandmother of Tyrone Dobbs (Alan Halsall).[24]

In 2003 she appeared in Jonathan Creek in the episode "The Tailor's Dummy". Lipman played Maggie Wych in the children's television show The Fugitives broadcast in 2005. 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.

She performed as a villain, The Wire, in the 2006 series of Doctor Who in the episode entitled "The Idiot's Lantern".[25]

She has also appeared on Just a Minute,[26] The News Quiz,[27] That Reminds Me, This Week and Have I Got News for You.[28] 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.[29] On Sunday 11 January 2009, BBC Four was devoted to a "Maureen Lipman Night".[30] 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 played Irene Spencer in the ITV3 comedy Ladies of Letters, in which she starred alongside Anne Reid. The show's first series started in 2009, and it returned for a second series in 2010.



Lipman made an early film appearance in Up the Junction (1968).[12] She played the title character's mother in Roman Polanski's film The Pianist (2002).[12]

In the 1999 film Solomon & Gaenor, the character she played spoke Yiddish throughout.[10]



In 1987,[31] she was cast as the character "Beatrice Bellman" ("Beatie/BT"), a Jewish grandmother in a series of television commercials for British Telecom,[10] a role which became sufficiently well known to launch a book You Got An Ology in 1989,[32] and which was still referred to 25 years later by politicians.[33]

Books, newspapers and magazines


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.[12] 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 also wrote a monthly column for Good Housekeeping magazine[10] for over ten years,[12] 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 writes for The Oldie[12][34] and is on the editorial advisory board of Jewish Renaissance magazine.[35]

Personal and family life


Lipman is Jewish. She lives in Muswell Hill, north London[10] and has two children, writers Amy and Adam Rosenthal.

She was married to dramatist Jack Rosenthal from 1974[36] until his death in 2004, and has had a number of roles in his works.

Retired computer expert Guido Castro, an Egyptian Jew, was her partner from 2008 until his death in January 2021.[37][38]

Political views




Lipman supports the work of the Burma Campaign UK,[12][39] 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 Appeal, broadcast in September 2009.[40]

Pro-Israel activism


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".[41] 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.[42]

In The Jewish Chronicle, Lipman argued that media reporting of the conflict was "heavily distorted":

There is rarely any film of rockets being fired into Israel, nor any mention of the damage, nor of the 250,000 refugees who have fled to the centre of Israel, nor of rockets targeting Israel every day since it withdrew from Gaza, nor the damage done by 100 Hezbollah rockets a day...

More people are being killed in São Paulo, Somalia and Darfur than in this conflict. Where is the coverage? It is as if the Iraq War has completely stopped while this blanket coverage in Lebanon goes on and on and on... I sometimes think Israel should ban the press as Zimbabwe has. They are a democracy, though, and behave accordingly...

I respect freedom of speech, but I'm contemptuous of the 300 signatories [to the anti-Invasion Times advert and the Independent letter]. To English, assimilated, sometimes self-despising Jews such as Gerald Kaufman and Harold Pinter, I say: where are you going to go when the shit hits the fan? It doesn't matter if you stand in Parliament or marry into the aristocracy, there will be no Israel to receive you, as they have received so many before. Why didn't they put their ad in an Israeli newspaper? Because it is more important to impress their fellow Englishmen than to effect change in the situation. Where are their signatures against Burma, Nepal, Tibet and Zimbabwe?...[43]

Lipman previously supported the Labour Party[44] but declared in October 2014 that she could no longer do so due to the then-leader Ed Miliband's support for a parliamentary motion in favour of recognising the State of Palestine.[45][46][47]

In May 2015, Lipman joined pro-Israel groups including the Zionist Federation in a protest outside the London premiere of a Palestinian play, The Siege, at Battersea Arts Centre.[48]

In an interview with The Guardian on 18 August 2020, Lipman inaccurately asserted that Hezbollah had claimed responsibility for the 2020 Beirut explosion, stating: "I'm very grateful that Hezbollah said they did it". She intimated that she would not be prepared to work alongside some pro-Palestinian actors, citing Maxine Peake and Miriam Margolyes as examples.

In November 2023 Lipman joined a march against antisemitism in London, alongside prominent figures from Britain's far-right and fascist movements.[49][50]

In 2024 Lipman stated that protests against Israel are "close to fascism".[51] She stated "These bleeding heartless liberals care so deeply for the Palestinians? That they espouse their cause at the expense of every other oppressed people of the world... Shame. Shame. Shame on every one of you."[52]

Lipman does not support the Palestinian right of return stating "as far as I can see nobody in history has ever had the right to return".[53]



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.[54][55]

The Labour Party


In April 2018, Lipman criticised then-current Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn for his poor handling of antisemitism in the Labour Party and the party's reputed failure to address the issue. Lipman attended a protest outside the Labour Party head office and said she attended the protest "as a disenfranchised socialist". She identified with a placard reading "Corbyn made me a Tory".[56][57][58] In a 2020 interview, she described herself as a "Labour luvvie" under the tenure of Tony Blair, as opposed to a "party member". However, she also said she'd have to be "stark raving mad to support Boris Johnson".[49]




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
National Lampoon's European Vacation Lady in the bed
1992 Carry On Columbus Countess Esmeralda
1999 Solomon & Gaenor Rezl
Captain Jack Barbara Bostock
2002 The Pianist Edwarda Szpilman
2003 SuperTex Dora Breslauer
2004 Lighthouse Hill Audrey Davidson
2008 The Agent Charlie
Caught in the Act Judith Herbst
2012 Run for Your Wife Exercising woman Cameo
Metamorphosis Mrs. Samsa
2020 The Schnoz Norma & Golda


Year Title Role Notes
1969–1970, 1981 ITV Playhouse Liz; Little Satin Bottom/The Mayoress; Zoya Krein Episodes: "In a Cottage Hospital", "The People's Jack", "Last Night Another Dissident..."
1969–1970, 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"
Don't Ask Us – We're New Here Various TV series
The Lovers Sandra Appleton Episode: "Brainwashing"
1971 Doctor at Large Maxine Episode: "Saturday Matinee"
1973 Thriller Liz Morris Episode: "File It Under Fear"
Casanova '73 Gloria Episode #1.3
1973–1975 Crown Court Sarah Lewis Recurring role
1974 Armchair Cinema Annie Episode: "Regan"
You'll Never Walk Alone Marjorie Pouncey TV short
1975 The Evacuees Sarah Miller TV film
Three Comedies of Marriage Rachel Episode: "Bobby Bluesocks"
1975–1976 Couples Marian Steinberg Main role
1976 The Sweeney Mrs. Smedley Episode: "Selected Target"
Rogue Male Freda TV film
1978 A Soft Touch Alison Holmes TV series
Play for Today Sharon Benson Episode: "Dinner at the Sporting Club"
1979 The Cannon and Ball Show Mrs. Paige Episode #1.2
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"
Dangerous Davies – The Last Detective Ena Lind TV film
1982 Jackanory Witch Episode: "The Witching Hour"
Smiley's People Stella Craven TV mini-series
Objects of Affection Val Episode: "Rolling Home"
Outside Edge Maggie TV film
1983 The Green Tie on the Little Yellow Dog Joyce Grenfell
1984 See How They Run Miss Skillon
1985 On Your Way, Riley Kitty McShane
Love's Labour's Lost The Princess of France
Victoria Wood: As Seen on TV Ruth Episode #1.5
Theatre Night Marge Episode: "Absent Friends"
Absurd Person Singular Jane Hopcroft TV film
1986 Screenplay Julie Episode: "Shift Work"
1986–1987 All at No 20 Sheila Haddon TV series
1987 A Little Princess Miss Minchin TV mini-series
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
Agony Again Jane Lucas Main role
1996 Eskimo Day Shani Whittle TV film
1997 Cold Enough for Snow Shani Whittle
1999 Oklahoma! Aunt Eller
2002 George Eliot: A Scandalous Life Narrator
Coronation Street Lillian Spencer Guest role, 6 episodes
2003 Jonathan Creek Louise Bergman Episode: "The Tailor's Dummy"
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"
Casualty Hannah 'Hayley' Liddell Episode: "Behind Closed Doors"
2008 He Kills Coppers Lily Porter TV film
2009 Skins Aunt Elizabeth Episode: "Thomas"
Minder Anita Richardson Episode: "The Art of the Matter"
2009–2010 Ladies of Letters Irene Spencer Main role
2011 Tinga Tinga Tales Hummingbird (voice) Episode: "Why Hummingbird Hums"
Holby City Bonnie Walters Episode: "Half Empty"
2012 Midsomer Murders Mags Dormer Episode: "Written in the Stars"
2015 The Vicar of Dibley Alicia Episode: "Comic Relief Special 2015"
Bull Beverley Bull Main role
The Job Lot Maggie Higgins Episode #3.6
2016–2019 Plebs Landlady Recurring role (series 3–5)
2018–present Coronation Street Evelyn Plummer Main cast
2020–present Celebrity Gogglebox Herself Alongside Gyles Brandreth
2021 Rose Rose
2022 DNA Journey Herself Alongside Rula Lenska


  • How Was It For You? Home thoughts from a broad, Little Brown, 1986. ISBN 978-0708831335
  • Something to Fall Back On...and other pretty colourful material, Robson Books, 1987. ISBN 978-0860514503
  • (with Richard Philips)You Got An Ology?, Robson Books, 1989. ISBN 978-0860515982
  • Thank You For Having Me, Robson Books, 1990. ISBN 978-0860516798
  • When's It Coming Out, Robson Books, 1992. ISBN 978-0860518174
  • You Can Read Me Like A Book, Robson Books, 1995. ISBN 978-0860519799
  • Lip Reading, Robson Books, 1999. ISBN 978-1861052896
  • The Gibbon's in Decline But the Horse is Stable..., Robson Books, 2006. ISBN 978-1861059697
  • Past-it Notes, Gardners Books, 2008. ISBN 978-1845799915
  • I Must Collect Myself: Choice Cuts From a Long Shelf-Life, Simon & Schuster, 2010. ISBN 978-1847373489
  • It's a Jungle Out There: A Lipman-Agerie, Biteback Publishing, 2016. ISBN 978-1785900969

Awards and nominations




Lipman was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 1999 New Year Honours and Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2020 Birthday Honours for services to charity, entertainment and the arts.[59][60] Accompanied by her son, Adam Rosenthal, she received her award from Charles, Prince of Wales at Windsor Castle on 28 October 2021.[61]



Her papers, and those of her husband Jack Rosenthal, are held at the University of Sheffield.[62]


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