Review: Parky holds audience rapt at fund-raising show

Michael Parkinson who is appearing at the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds
Michael Parkinson who is appearing at the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds

“These seats are better than the BBC’s,” jokes Sir Michael Parkinson as he settles down for his fund-raising event at the Theatre Royal, in Bury St Edmunds.

So began an enjoyable nostalgic jaunt through the life of the Yorkshire coal miner’s son who became a household name interviewing thousands of famous faces on his eponymous TV chat show.

For this eagerly awaited sold-out return to the Theatre Royal - 40 years since he last appeared at the venue - it was Parky’s turn to be gently grilled by friend and fellow reporter Roger Hermiston.

It made for an insightful, witty and occasionally moving retrospect through the influential broadcaster’s family heritage, affinity for cricket and a body of work which delivers a virtual who’s who of 20th century popular culture.

He dusted off anecdotes coated with the working class grit of his youth as he somberly described the horror, as a cub reporter, of going to talk to a woman about the death of her soldier son and quickly realising as he stood in her front room that the Army had not yet informed her of her son’s passing.

Then came the star dust of Hollywood - the game changing interview with Orson Welles, a song from Fred Astaire and the beauty of Ingrid Bergman - all recounted with his trademark down to earth charm.

He admits his fortune was down to the timing of his chat show which debuted as the studio system crumbled and the ageing titans of the silver screen were released from the leash of the movie moguls to appear on television.

The evening ended with a wistful regret for a by-gone era of TV - a medium which currently, he argues, caters for the ‘red top’ masses with little for those who desire more substance.

The event ended just like his programmes with rippling applause and respect for a legend the audience now knew intimately.

n Funds raised from his appearance will benefit the Theatre Royal’s community and education programme.