REVIEW: An Evening With Sir Michael Parkinson, Chichester Festival Theatre

Just like his famous and much-loved TV chat show, An Evening With Michael Parkinson was not about the man himself.
Sir Michael ParkinsonSir Michael Parkinson
Sir Michael Parkinson

That might sound surprising to some but it is a measure of Parky, and probably a good indicator of why he has been so successful, that, with him, it has always been about those he has been interviewing.

And even though, this time, the tables are turned and he is on the receiving end of the questions, from son Mike, it is still the stars he has interviewed down the years that take centre stage.

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Maybe this show should be called An Evening With Muhammad Ali, John Wayne, Orson Welles, Dame Edna Everage, Lauren Bacall and George Best (among others) - for clips of Parky's chats with the great and good of the big screen, small screen, sport and other fields take up a fair chunk of the two-and-a-bit hours Parky senior and junior are on stage.

But these are all sewn together by very revealing chats in which the real star of the night tells us the background to some of the famous interviews; who among his guests he admired, who he didn't, who surprised him and who infuriated him.

There is plenty of humour - not just from clips that show the aforementioned Dame Edna, plus Sir Billy Connolly, at their funniest, but also from Parky himself, as he recalls some of the funnier moments from on and off-screen.

And while this show is certainly not all 'me, me, me', it's pleasing that there is time for one of Barnsley's favourite sons to tell some tales from his childhood - when he was told in no uncertain terms that he should not be following hia father down the mines - his journey into journalism and then TV, and from his later family life, including a gem about putting his mum and dad on an aeroplane for the first time in their lives.

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We see Parky's first televised interview - in which, in 1963, he and a very youthful Mick Jagger speculate about how long the singer might remain popular for (maybe another year, suggests Jagger) - and even one or two that didn't go so well, like the evening Meg Ryan decided she didn't like him or his line of questioning.

Sir Michael is 82 and has had a few health problems in recent years but it is delightful to see him still in great form, and still keen to talk to us, just like he did in our front rooms for several decades via his chat show. He is a legend - even if you might be hard-pressed to get him to agree.