Comedy / Talk Show, Pleasance Courtyard, Venue 33, 17:10.
Nicholas Parsons’ show at this year’s Fringe Festival took a chat show format, as Parsons sat on stage at the Cabaret Bar chatting to each of his guests in turn. Easing into the show by first becoming acquainted with the front row, the majority of which transpired to be accountants from Morningside, Parsons proceeded to talk a little about his relationship with Scotland and his time spent as an engineer at Clydebank in Glasgow, something which might not have otherwise been guessed at from his now very Southern accent. Parsons commanded the stage in a gentle and grandfatherly manner, modulating between an avid listener and an insightful source of comment and reflection.
Sadly, what marred Parsons’ hour was not his own performance as much as the guests which ‘shared’ the stage with him. Whilst the first guest, a ventriloquist who performed a brief duet from Les Miserables with his rubber chicken partner, was amiable, self-deprecating and engaging Parsons’ second guest, Phil Nichol, was quite the opposite. Nichol seemed to occupy every inch of the limelight throughout his time, which felt by the end of it to have dragged on for far too long, and left little room for Parsons to get a word in edge wise. An enthusiastic self-promoter, Nichol was hardly in conversation as much as he was concerned with plugging his many Fringe shows at every available opportunity to the detriment of any semblance of rapport with either the audience or his host. Nauseating and excessive, Nichol’s time on the stage seemed very much at odds with the tone established in the first half of the show before his arrival.
Establishing an intimate setting amongst strangers, as the Cabaret Bar with its cosy parameters provided for, is what Parsons’ show ought to be praised for the most. Though some of the humour understandably suffered from a generational disconnect, as there is some 71 years of age between this reviewer and Parsons, Parsons still held and charmed an audience which ranged from young children to audience members who may have even been older than the 91 year old presenter. Parsons himself deserves 5 stars, it’s a shame that his guests didn’t live up to this same standard.