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Nicholas Parsons – the consummate performer

Blog | By The Old Un | Feb 21, 2020

Credit: Neil Spence Photography

The Old Un was sad to hear of the death of Nicholas Parsons, a great friend to The Oldie, in January, aged 96.

Oldie contributor William Cook remembers a trip to Brighton to write about the Theatre Royal’s 200th-birthday party in 2007. Among his fellow travellers on the delayed train from Victoria was Parsons.

‘A lot of celebs would have hated being trapped in a place like this, at the mercy of fans and newshounds,’ says Cook. ‘However, Parsons seemed to relish it. He was telling stories, cracking jokes, keeping everybody happy.’

Eventually the train departed and somehow everyone squeezed onto it. Parsons wasn’t cocooned in First Class. He mucked in with the rest of the party and kept up the repartee all the way down to Brighton. It was like an extended episode of Just A Minute.

‘A lot of entertainers hoard their humour for a paying public – not Parsons,’ says Cook. ‘There was no side to him at all. When I left, he was still going strong and enchanting everyone around him.

‘I interviewed him a few years later. He said loads of funny, insightful things, and the bit that jumped off the page was the advice he always gave to aspiring actors: “If you are prepared to put up with all the indignities, disappointments, frustrations and insults — if you can accept them and come back fighting — then go ahead and do it. But if you’re going to crumble the first time you get a disappointment of some kind, you mustn’t start.” ’

RIP the Great Entertainer – and the Great Pro.