The problem with spending a day on the set of the Ab Fab film is that you know that Eddie and Patsy’s outrageous world is going to make your own life seem colourless and dreary in comparison.
And as I stand in Eddie’s colossal white-columned house by her gleaming tiled swimming pool guarded by gauche, Zeus-like Greek(ish) statues, I wonder if anyone would notice if I just moved in here.
I’m visiting the set where Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley, and a huge cast and crew of people, are making Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie – and we’re in Edina Monsoon’s absolutely fabulous house near North London’s Hampstead, in which most of the film takes place.
Once I’ve stared at those muscular Greek statues and fantasised about diving into that glittering swimming pool, I wander back into the gigantic kitchen and can hear Saunders and Lumley upstairs on the landing, filming a scene. There are a lot of shouts of “sweetie” and “darling” and I feel suddenly nervous, as though Eddie might come out and give me one of her withering looks at any point. I look down at my blouse and wish I’d worn something more extravagant. I don’t want to be a Saffy…
The kitchen fridge is so unbelievably big, it could fit seven ordinary fridges inside it. I could probably live in it quite happily if I had enough jumpers. And of course, next to that is a second fridge specifically for all that Champagne Eddie needs to store. Her immortal phrase, “I don’t want more choice, I just want nicer things,” keeps fizzing around my brain.
I keep thinking, “I’m in Eddie’s house! She’s going to eat me alive!”
On the other side of the kitchen stand three pastel-coloured Agas ( because why only have one?) and a massive kitchen island fit for four families to have a Christmas lunch. On the gleaming surface sits a ceramic bowl of perfectly arranged, perfectly formed pomegranites. There are no absolutely no browning bananas or bruised apples in this lair of luxury.
And then, just as I’m admiring the very Eddie decor decision to have a Che Guevara poster near a huge Buddha next to a cluster of gold statues on a furry red carpet, Patsy’s voice thunders down from the top of the stairs where Lumley is filming a scene. “Eddie, darling…”
And then I’m away from the glittery kitchen, huddled backstage with the crew watching a scene being filmed. I’m squashed between make-up artists and production crew, looking at the monitor. It’s hard to find a place to stand, it’s so packed back there. It feels busy and exciting.
The scene we see features Saffy (Julia Sawalha) and her boyfriend, played by Robert Webb (who when I arrived at the house was smoking a cigarette outside the house looking slightly grumpy/in deep thought) standing in the corridor. Patsy rings the doorbell and barges in, before Eddie asks the question that no other mother in the universe would ask their fully adult daughter: “have you two been snogging?”.
Then the scene cuts and Joanna Lumley wanders backstage, smiling and wearing an incredible gold necklace and long glittery red coat. She looks amazing. She says “darling” to one of the crew and I’m not sure whether she’s still in character…
And then something particularly surprising happens in the next scene we see filmed – we’re told that Eddie’s elderly mother is getting into a suitcase.
I won’t ruin the moment too much because you’ll see it in the film – but it involves a June Whitfield body double as the 90-year-old actress isn’t expected to get on her hands and knees and get into a suitcase. It’s all quite surreal watching someone who looks a eerily like Whitfield clamber into a suitcase. I want to shout, wait, June, should you really be doing that?
They shoot the scene a few times, with instructions from the director. And then it’s over and granny is out of the suitcase, Saffy looks horrified and Eddie and Patsy flounce off. I go and take one last, lingering look at the Greek statues and run my hand over that fluffy red living room carpet – and then it’s back to the colourless, grey North London concrete outside Eddie Monsoon’s absolutely fabulous palace.
Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie is in now in cinemas