Nicholas Parsons’ Happy Hour
Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33), August 10-14
Watching Nicholas Parsons arrive at the Pleasance you fretted over his frailty as he gently negotiated the cobbled entrances to the Pleasance.
The queue for his show had already snaked out of the venue and halfway up the street, and it was still growing as he headed into the foyer, slipping in almost un-noticed.
Twenty minutes later, the house lights go up and he looks at least a decade younger. A mere 80-something.
At 92 (93 in October), Parsons is a Fringe institution - arguably the oldest performer at the festival - and a much loved one at that too.
The love in the room was evident the moment he appeared on stage resplendent in a red jacket and white shirt.
He may rely on a walking stick to get round these days but, as he tells his audience, ‘’there’s nothing wrong with the brain’’ – the stick, he jokes, is to help after he got ‘’that DVD thing’’ from a long-haul flight.
He’s been coming to the Fringe for 16 years now, and while the number of shows may have been curtailed – this year his run only extends to one week – he still has a huge audience.
Sunday’s show sold out. It was standing room only, and returns were quickly snapped up.
It’s old school chat show with entertaining guests, while Parsons works his audience with ease, chatting convivially with the front row and rewarding them tubes of Smarties for playing along . As prizes go that’s probably on par with what some folk won on Sale Of The Century.’
Parsons has a lifetime’s supply of theatrical anecdotes - he’s work with pretty much everyone - and he happily interjects with a ;’’that reminds me of the time…’’
And if he forgets a name or a reference point, he just shrugs, laughs and moves on, and no-one complains. Well, criticisng Nicholas Parsons is as unthinkable as poking Santa Claus in the eye with a sharp stick.
His guests on Sunday were varied and interesting - Colin Cloud spooked the audience with his remarkable forensic reading skills, Jimeoin cracked some gags, and Ross Leadbetter dug into his great British songbook to spark a wee sing-a-long with George Formby and Petula Clark numbers before rushing off to do his own show.
It was as quaint, and timeless, as afternoon tea – and it did what Parsons promised, it left everyone happier than when they came in.
He’s done this so often it really is second nature.
The Fringe will, eventually, be the poorer without him.
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