Tuesday, 26 April 2016

INTERVIEW - Dane Baptiste

Dane Baptiste, pic credit Steve Ullathorne

SIX years ago Dane Baptiste was working in a job that didn't fulfil him. Now he's a fully fledged professional comedian and a rising star on the circuit with two award nominations, a BBC3 sitcom and plenty of appearances on TV comedy shows under his belt.
It may seem a meteoric rise to some but the 34 year old from Lewisham isn't about to get excited about it.
In fact, quite the opposite in that Dane prefers to keep his feet very firmly on the ground and is modest about his achievements - although he admits that he has achieved things he previously had only ever dreamt about.
Indeed it's a dream come true to be making a living out of making people laugh - something he had wanted to do ever since he saw the likes of American comedian Chris Rock on TV and Russell Peters live at the Broadway Theatre in Catford when Dane was 15.
But his success has come at a bit of a price - that of worrying about whether or not it's going to last and is he as good as people tell him. In fact he says it is a constant source of worry that his new found career - which he loves - is about to come to an untimely end.
All these misgivings and worrisome thoughts have provided the perfect inspiration for his latest stand up show, Reasonable Doubts, its name taken from the title of Jay Z's debut album, in which Dane discusses doubt and how his life has changed in the past few years.
He is currently touring the show and as well as some South London dates later on this year he is doing five nights at the Soho Theatre starting on Tuesday of next week.
"The idea is that when you do something for the first time and it's a success, everyone raves about it but then questions whether you will be able to do the sequel and get the success you had with the first," he says cheerfully.
"I have doubts just like anyone else so I talk about them and the sacrifices I made to pursue my creative endeavours - such as no long term relationship and not being able to afford to buy my own home for example.
"The trappings of celebrity can make you detached," he adds. "I had a normal job for so long. But now I'm doing what I love so I never get carried away as it could all end tomorrow. I worry I wake up one day and find myself bankrupt!
"I am from a normal working class background and if my fortunes do change for the better I don't want to lose my humility."
And there's more besides which spill out of Dane at a fearsome rate. He talks quickly but softly and has plenty to say about politics, comedy, the refugee crisis, the NHS and growing up in South London. It's clear he wants to put the world to rights through his comedy.
"We have reality TV shows where people are successful for having no talent - so what's the point of learning a craft to be successful?" he says.
"It's ridiculous because they are telling people you can become a millionaire by doing nothing.
"Maybe we should put those who work in the NHS on the same pedestal as we do footballers and these reality TV people.
"And then there is the issue of affordable housing - who can afford to live in these flats they are building in Lewisham at the moment? It's insane but I worry about it all.
"It sounds morbid but everyone has doubts and this show is about me dealing with all these things. There's lots to talk about!"
And with so much to say on so many topics, and in such a funny and self deprecating way I ask what took Dane so long to get behind the mic.
It was he says a bit of a gamble but as he was stuck in a dead end job, it was worth the risk.
"When I was at school at Lee Manor Primary I used to make the other kids laugh and always wanted to be an entertainer but didn't know how to pursue it - I certainly didn't know you could make a living out of it," he says.
"I remember watching Hale and Pace, Russ Abbott and Harry Enfield as well as American comics like Chris Rock and being really inspired - Chris Rock and his experiences was the light bulb moment for me.
"I considered it when I was at uni but those who wanted to get into entertainment were douche bags and I just didn’t like it. I never saw anyone like myself do it and had no idea how to become a comedian.
"I also wanted to be the good guy and support my family. So I got a job - although starting work at about the same time as the credit crunch happened wasn't ideal!"
But he cheerfully admits it wasn't enough and it wasn't long before he decided to take a punt on doing comedy as a career.
That was six years ago. The rest as they say is history.
But even with his success, he refuses to "bask in the glow of celebrity" and so we get back to those irksome doubts of his.
He credits his upbringing, his family and his friends for helping him keep his feet on the ground.
He grew up in Lewisham in a "nice stable family" where he "would rather have gone to prison than disobey or annoy" his parents.
"I have good friends and family and that's instrumental to my success," he says. "They keep me grounded.
"Although primary school was a bit difficult because I felt very constrained, I enjoyed my time when I was at secondary school at Askes.
"I found out more about intra racial differences but was never involved in gangs - I was never interested in that. I know people who got into trouble but it wasn't for me.
"I also didn't want to let my parents down. They instilled a sense of working hard so I never take anything for granted."
And to prove that he's kept his feet on the ground, he still lives in the borough in which he grew up and says he doesn't think he could live anywhere else.
"Life's great but I will never take it for granted," he says. "Working hard to do something you love is fantastic - even on the worst day things are better than the best day in the office - which was the day I left!
"Not many people get to do this so I'm very lucky."

Dane Baptiste is doing his show Reasonable Doubts at the Soho Theatre until Saturday, May 7.

Visit http://www.sohotheatre.com/ for full listings.

Monday, 25 April 2016

THREE star review for Darknet, at the Southwark Playhouse

pic credit Lidia Crisafulli


THE internet can be a scary place. It can be used to spy on someone or an organisation, it can become an obsession and it can hide those who use it to harm others.
Darknet, a play which is a collaboration between Rose Lewenstein and Russell Bender, and now on at the Southwark Playhouse, shines a light on the shady dealings that go on online.
It navigates through the world of data transparency and the uncharted deep web, uncovering the things we choose to share online and the places in which we can hide.
It is set in South London at some point in the future. It features a variety of characters whose lives intermingle - we have schoolgirl Kyla who goes to Jamie to get help in the form of methadone for her drug addicted mother. Then there is Allen, who works for Octopus Inc, a somewhat sinister and shady internet giant that pretty much controls society and allows users to exchange personal data for currency. He in turn is trying to persuade cyber hacker Gary to join the company rather than serve out his sentence for hacking in jail.
It is an interesting piece, exploring fascinating themes and full of characters who find themselves at the mercy of the web and who get drawn into it and ultimately get trapped.
As such it is dark, murky, creepy and at times sinister and disturbing, although there is also plenty of humour that runs through it and the use of iPads and iPods is a clever and neat touch.
However there are moments when it doesn't work, in particular the scene changes. That said it is very well acted, particularly Ella McLoughlin as Kyla and Gyuri Sarossy who is suitably creepy as the crooked Allen.

Darknet is on at the Southwark Playhouse, Newington Causeway until May 7. Visit http://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/ for full listings.

INTERVIEW - Bertie Watkins of CoLab theatre

picture credit Chrystal Ding

SOMEWHERE in a warehouse in deepest South London strange things and shady dealings are afoot.
An undercover police operation is underway to bring down the Don of the criminal underworld.
But this isn't the latest covert operation by the Met's boys in blue. No, this is CROOKS, a play in which the audience decide the fate of the police, the drugs baron and all his associates.
Conceived by theatre collective CoLab, the show is described by its writer and artistic director Bertie Watkins as pervasive theatre.
"We created CROOKS so that the audience can be very much at the heart of the narrative," he explains.
"It's a black comedy and a bit cockney gangster and anyone who likes Guy Ritchie films will love it.
"It's also an intense and immersive show in that every person who comes through the door has a reason to be there - they play a part and will have as much a role in the story as the actors performing for them."
Split into groups of 10 the audience meet at a secret warehouse in Borough before being taken on a journey into the criminal underworld.
They are taken to different rooms and settings during the 90-minute piece and are encouraged to get involved by asking questions and interacting with the actors.
Their decisions about what happens to the characters in each scene informs the direction of the play and ultimately the ending.
Scenarios include being able to save a captured cop, play Russian roulette with the Don and take part in a major drug deal in the notorious Cockney Cartel.
Audiences must hold their nerve, test their skills in subterfuge and interrogation, and, above all, not get caught as they go head to head against the gangs of the seedy London underworld.
It is, says Ben, great fun but also a little sinister.
"The last show we did in this style was really exciting and audiences loved it so we were keen to do another one," he tells me.
"It was brilliant coming up with the idea and then creating it. Drug cartels was quite a hard subject to research but I'm a huge Guy Ritchie fan so I drew on his films for inspiration. I also looked at news stories like the recent Hatton Garden robbery.
"The setting too just lends itself to this sort of plot - it looks like a dodgy drugs den - and as the company is based here and I live not far from here it made sense."
Although Bertie says it is "a night of incredible fun" in which people can act out and channel their inner James Bond, he admits it was a challenge to create.
"It's quite complex as we have 10 different characters and four different endings so depending on the audience reactions and decisions, it can mean a different ending each night," he says.
"There are bullet points but there is no script in the traditional sense so the actors are on their toes all the time.
"Anything can happen and it's really unpredictable, although we do create boundaries and the actors help the audience in their choices, are directed by them and answer their questions.
"The audience can decide what happens to the Don - they can let him go, hand him over to the cops, betray his gang, hide evidence or give it up - it's great fun but their choices affect the outcome of the evening.
"But we've had to approach it like a military operation - it's been challenging and the timings are crucial."
Although Bertie says the audience are encouraged to be part of it, they don't have to be and can just turn up to watch it all unfold.
"We don't want it to be intimidating - we want it to be fun so if they want to step back they can," he says. "However, we find that they do want to interact which makes it really exciting and much more interesting.
"We want them to come along and expect something that isn't what they would normally experience going to the theatre. They have to be ready for anything!"

CROOKS is on at a secret location in Borough until Friday, May 20. Tickets cost £22. Visit www.colabtheatre.co.uk for full listings.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

INTERVIEW - Ali Campbell of UB40

WITH upwards of 70 million record sales under his belt, a string of top hits to his name not to mention eight kids and now becoming a granddad, Ali Campbell has plenty of reasons to be cheerful.
In fact, the frontman of UB40, one of the UK's most popular bands ever, tells me life has never been better.
We chat as he prepares for a UK arena tour in which he and bandmates Mickey Virtue and Astro will perform classic hits and gems from their seminal albums Labour Of Love Parts I & II.
The tour takes in the O2 Arena in Greenwich, a venue Ali tells me he can't wait to get into and start playing.
"I've never played at the 02 before but I did see Stevie Wonder there which was cool so we are going to make sure it's a good gig," he says in his West Midlands lilt.
"It's been a while since we were last in Greenwich so it will be brilliant to be back.
"I've got good memories of playing in South London - last time it was the Indig02 and it was brilliant - so I'm hoping we'll get a good crowd in who are all keen to hear our songs and party with us."
And he promises fans won't be disappointed as there will be a full set of hits from Red, Red Wine, Kingston Town and The Way You Do The Things You Do.
"I can't wait because it'll just be hit after hit after hit," he says cheerfully. "I've never sung the album in its entirety before so it'll be a load of fun.
"The songs just stand the test of time and we still get a kick out of playing them."
And he hints that as well as the golden oldies there will be some new material.
"There will be an encore so there may be some new stuff," he chuckles.
"The whole reason we started in the first place was to show people why we love reggae," he adds. "We knew these songs would be successful. It's emotional for me as ever since we started it's been about the music and promoting reggae to new audiences which is what we've always done."
They may be on a roll now but Ali admits the last few years have been tough, not least the split from his brothers who were part of the band's original line up.
Referring to them as the "Dark Side" he says the tensions are still there but says ultimately it's the fans who decide their fate.
And it's clear the fans are still there and loving the fact the band is back with their critically acclaimed 2014 album Sihouette and on tour - something Ali and the guys are delighted to be doing again since they reformed in 2013.
"We are in a great place and really happy," he says warmly. "It's better now and we are enjoying it more.
"It's been the greatest time for us - we are as strong as we ever were and so to do the big arena tour is exactly where we want to be.
"We've been to Hawaii and New Zealand and all over the place playing to both small and large audiences.
"In fact we've been in some quite luxurious and beautiful places and we feel very lucky to be able to do this.
"It makes a change from when we first started out all those years ago, slumming it in various shitholes and driving about in our Luton van with all our gear! Now we're like travelling troubadours," he adds laughing.
"It's a great life to be living in your 50s. It was great in our 20s and 30s but now it's even better.
"But it's about tenacity and refusing to go away and we kept on going because we believed in the music.
"At the time we started no one knew what dub and reggae was all about. When I first started UB40 in 1979 reggae had only been going since 1968 so it was tiny.
"Now it's got more interesting and people know much more about it which is fantastic - in fact reggae is the biggest influence in contemporary dance music. You hear it all around the world.
"There is a great scene in the West Coast of America and I love to go and visit and play with the likes of Rebelution and Slightly Stoopid who are making great music."
And he says he hopes to make an album and tour with some of them at some point in the future.
But for now his unplugged album which is being released by Warner Bros in July and the tour are uppermost in his mind.
He and Astro are writing "as we always do" and he promises there will be a new album at some point not to mention collaborations with some of his offspring.
"I'm a grandfather now and have eight kids and although I don't see enough of them, when I do it's great," he says warmly.
"One of my daughters supported us last year and my other daughter is also delving into the business."
But he says he draws the line at giving any of his kids advice.
"I can't because it's a different business these days," he says. "The one I grew up in was all about selling CDs and you can't do that now because it's all about downloads. It's all different.
"But we've always been lucky to have brilliant fans and a great reputation as a live band playing some of the best music in the world.
"UB40 gave us three million card carrying fans and the fact we play reggae means I'm still here today as people all over the world love it.
"We chose the right genre of music," he chuckles.

UB40 will be at the 02 in Greenwich with their Labour Of Love Tour on Friday, April 29. Visit www.myticket.co.uk for full listings.


A SOUTH London dancer and choreographer who is one of the rising stars of the hip hop world will be showcasing her latest work at this year's Breakin' Convention.
Catford-based Kloe Dean will bring her all-women dance collective Myself UK Dance Company to the Sadlers Wells-based festival this weekend to perform her latest composition, Red.
The 26-year-old who set up the group when she was just 18 said she's really looking forward to the event which celebrates the best in hip hop, body popping, street and breakdance.
Performed by the 10-strong group on the main Sadlers Wells stage, the abstract piece will feature a mix of popping and locking and aims to show how women stick together in times of need.
The themes in the dance are very much reflective of the ethos of the company - to promote empowerment, ambition, individuality and self worth and to represent women in the hip hop world in a positive light.
"I want to break the stereotypes of this largely male dominated area," Kloe tells me. "There are some great women dancers and groups but there aren't enough and a lot of them are run by men anyway.
"It's quite hard to be taken seriously in hip hop as a woman. So I want to change all that and inspire women and girls of all ages to get involved.
"This piece will look at women and how powerful they can be. The narrative is all about the journey in which the dancers support one another - how women can work really well independently and as individuals but how powerful we could be if we work together."
Kloe herself got into dance when she was a teenager although she admits it was more by chance than design.
"I'd always liked singing and acting but it was when I was 15 and going to my local youth club in Lewisham where it all happened," she says.
"I wanted to be a singer but they started doing dance classes and one day I went along and got hooked.
"I just felt comfortable dancing. I hear music and it inspires me and tells me what to do. I can have an idea of a story or moves but the music has to go with the idea. I can't create movement that doesn't have any feelings in it.
"I started doing shows and then was asked to audition for dance group Boy Blue Entertainment.
"It just went from there."
But it was on the back of a relationship break up that she decided to branch out on her own.
"I was in a relationship that went wrong and it broke my heart," she recalls.
"However I realised that I needed to be strong and so I decided to set this company up to empower myself and other women and show how strong we can be.
"It made me push myself and although it's been pretty challenging I love it."
And from there Kloe and Myself UK Dance Company have gone from strength to strength and she says she has plenty of goals and ambitions for the future.
"I want to develop myself as a choreographer though I'd love to do more singing and acting," she says warmly.
"I would also like a dance space in London for hip hop dancers - to create a dance space in London, that would be amazing."
But for now she's concentrating on Breakin' Convention, a festival that she has been performing at since 2009.
"It's brilliant and I've been blessed to have performed on both stages," she says. "The 10 girls in the piece are utterly amazing - it's a very strong piece and I know it will be epic."

Kloe Dean's Myself UK Dance Company is at Breakin' Convention on Saturday, April 30. Visit www.breakinconvention.com/ for full listings.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

FOUR STAR review for The Caretaker at the Old Vic

THE minute the lights shine on the set of The Caretaker I just wanted to get up and tidy it up. Full of junk, paint and wallpaper peeling off the wall, dirty, a bucket suspended from the roof and faulty electrics, it is the epitome of squalidness.
It is of course meant to be like that and is actually one of the stand out features of Matthew Warchus's production of Harold Pinter's play, now on at the Old Vic.
The story concerns Davies a drifter of a man who finds himself living in the flat which is owned by two brothers. One, Mick is twitchy, overbearing, slightly sinister and speaks at about a million miles an hour. The other, Aston, who befriends Davies and takes him in, is very slow, clearly damaged at having been institutionalised, generous and friendly and constantly trying to fix a plug.
Davies, played by Timothy Spall, looks like he's been pulled through several hedges backwards - wiry and wild grey hair all over the place, grubby and dishevelled I just wanted to show him the nearest bath and get him cleaned up!
Nothing really happens in the piece other than these three men vying for power, and comparisons with Waiting For Godot are unsurprising.
But it is a fascinating look at their lives. They are all outsiders in one way or another, lacking identity but desperate to belong and in the case of Davies, wanting to go and find his papers in Sidcup - a journey he never quite manages.
The performances are exceptional. Daniel Mayes as the quiet Aston is brilliant, showing flashes of anger at times to hint at there being more to him than meets the eye.
George MacKay is equally brilliant as Mick suggesting that there is something not just sinister about his character but manic and manipulative.
Timothy Spall is fabulous as Davies, switching from vulnerable old man to cocky and cunning as he pokes around the flat trying to find something to steal.
Brilliantly staged it is also very funny with some hilarious scenes including one in which Davies puts on a smoking jacket over his grubby and moth eaten clothes and assumes the air of a gent.
Just fabulous.

The Caretaker is on at the Old Vic, Waterloo until Saturday, May 14. Visit www.oldvictheatre.com/ for full listings.


OVER the years comedian Mark Steel has travelled the country visiting and researching towns as part of his Radio 4 series and stand up show Mark Steel's In Town.
But recently a different type of research has been occupying his mind - that of finding out more about his biological family.
The results - which he readily admits are both surprising and "mad" - have been turned into his latest stand up show, Who Do I Think I Am, which he is currently touring in venues around the country.
He is bringing his revelations to Blackheath Halls on April 30 and promises it will be both "fascinating and funny".
"You couldn't make it up actually," he laughs as we chat ahead of the gig. "In fact it's ridiculous and a bit bonkers, like a really really bad Jeffrey Archer novel!"
Mark, who was born in 1960, was adopted a few days after he was born, something he says he has always known. It was by all accounts a close family and growing up in Swanley he was never interested in finding his birth parents.
That is until his son Elliot was born nearly 20 years ago. It was at that point that he began to think differently.
"I always knew I was adopted so there was never any issue about it - in fact the whole thing was more fascinating for other people than it was for me," he tells me.
"So, I'd never been bothered but when Elliot was born, well it's a big thing isn't it, and I thought my mum might be wanting to know how I was."
However, it turned out she didn't. When he finally traced her she didn't want to know or even meet Mark but she did tell him about his father. And it was at this point that the astonishing details of his birth parents started to emerge.
He doesn't want to give away too many spoilers but it turns out that Mark - well known for his left wing leanings - is the son of Joe, a multi-millionaire former Wall Street trader and the world backgammon champion.
Joe also used to gamble at the famous Clermont Club in London alongside one Lord Lucan and also had connections with the likes of capitalists Tiny Rowland and James Goldsmith, father of Zac.
The irony of all this is not lost on Mark.
"It is just ridiculous," he admits cheerfully. "I was surprised to find out all this stuff about my dad but not disappointed.
"The starting point of the show is finding my mum but from there on in it just gets more bizarre.
"It's quite peculiar and the show is about the whole madness of it. It's a very strange business and finding out all this stuff about my dad was, well, it's fascinating and just mad.
"You won't believe the ending - there are lots of juicy revelations", he adds chuckling.
"Like that £10million I've got in an offshore account. Despite being asked several times it turns out I did have that money all along... !"
Jokes aside he says he wouldn't be at all surprised if his father has shares in the Panama off shore tax haven that is currently exercising the interest of people across the country.
"I don't want to give you all the details, you will have to come and see the show to find out what happens," he says.
"However, there is no question my dad's got considerable sums of money stashed away in tax havens. He's considerably wealthy - he was the world backgammon champion afterall!
"Zac Goldsmith's dad was one of his closest friends. I wrote to Zac actually just before Christmas and said 'I know you're really busy but here's a fascinating thing....' but he never wrote back..." he muses.
The process of finding out more about his biological parents turned out to be longer than he expected and it has taken the nearly 20 years since Elliot was born for Mark to find out these details about where he comes from.
In fact it was only about five years ago that he first made contact with his mother.
"I would do the things you do and write to people and go to register offices and then do something else and come back to it," he says.
"So it was done in fits and starts but eventually it came together although my mum didn't want to be found."
But during his research he uncovered other bits of his biological family and these other various strands have their own mysteries, so his work is ongoing.
"Every time I do more research it gets more absurd and far fetched," he chuckles. "There is another side of my family which is equally fascinating so there is all that to discuss.
"They turn up in the show and whether I meet my dad is another point that emerges. I'm sure if I wrote this as a story people would say I'd made it up or think it was written by someone like Jeffrey Archer and wonder how he got away with it.
"He would have called it something terrible like Beg Borrow Or Steel," he adds laughing.
"It's just very funny and actually I wouldn't have written it or inflicted it on people as a show if it wasn't. Someone wrote after one show saying I was brave but it's not brave. It's not a journey and it wasn't cathartic either - it was just fun to find out and talk about."
He admits though that his views on the nature versus nurture debate have changed somewhat.
"Before I started this whole thing I was of the opinion that you are just who you are rather than anything to do with genes, but now I do think it's a bit of both," he says.
"But I'm not of the opinion that somehow your natural blood relatives are your own responsibility."
And he says his two children have not given Mark's quest anything more than a passing interest.
"My lad is very much of the opinion that it's those who've brought you up who are family and who are important," he says. "In fact neither of my kids have much interest in it to be honest."
He hasn't taken their indifference personally and has instead been pleased at the positive reactions he's had from his audiences. And he's looking forward to bringing the show to Blackheath, a place he says he is very fond of and knows well given that he's made his home in nearby Crystal Palace for many years.
"It's lovely but a bit peculiar," he says. "Lots of people say that London is made up of a series of villages but Blackheath really does go out to some lengths to convince people it's a village even though it's half a mile from Deptford!
"It's a lovely part of South London though and it will be nice to be back and bring the show here.
"It's an entertaining show and I'm pleased with it," he adds. "It was difficult to write as to put anything together for a two hour show is not easy, but my parents have bequeathed me this funny story so I'm blessed with that."

Mark Steel Who Do I Think I Am is on at Blackheath Halls on Saturday, April 30. Visit http://www.trinitylaban.ac.uk/blackheath-halls for full listings.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

INTERVIEW - Nicholas Parsons

After 70 years as an actor, comedy performer and presenter you would think there isn't anything that Nicholas Parsons CBE hasn't turned his hand to.
However surprisingly and despite his very full and varied career he's about to make his classical music debut as the narrator of the family concert, The Composer Is Dead! on Saturday, April 16.
The concert at the Royal Festival Hall is part of the Yehudi Menuhin Competition London 2016, an 11-day festival which includes internationally renowned soloists, major concerts with some of London’s best orchestras, world premieres, exhibitions, masterclasses, outreach programmes and this family show.
It is the London premiere of Nathaniel Stookey's piece - with a text by Lemony Snicket - and is a murder mystery about the killing of a composer which takes place in an orchestra.
Designed to appeal to all the family the audience gets to explore the crime through the instruments. It also aims to help introduce children to the orchestra's family of instruments and classical music.
For Nicholas, at 92 years young, it is a chance to do something he's not done before and he tells me he's thrilled about the prospect.
"I'd not heard of the festival before but I listened to a tape of the piece and I think this concert is a fabulous idea," he says warmly.
"It's based on the idea of a murder mystery but it's more of an educational piece for children who don't know a great deal about music or orchestras.
"I've never done anything like this before, and I'm not known for my classical musical prowess, so I'm looking forward to it tremendously.
"I love spreading my talents so it's a wonderful to have an opportunity to do a musical piece, work with a full orchestra and entertain children. It's a great piece of theatre and I'm thrilled."
I suggest that Nicholas is the ideal person to narrate it. He's first and foremost an actor but he's also done plenty of presenting - most notably of course ITV's Sale of the Century which was compulsive viewing in our house back in the day and of course Just A Minute which has been going strong on Radio 4 for more than 50 years and which he has been at the helm of since its inception.
He's also a fabulous entertainer, broadcaster and raconteur and has earned himself a CBE for his extensive professional and charity work, not to mention the status of one of this country's national treasures.
But he merely says modestly that he was just honoured to be asked.
"Yehudi Menuhin put so much back into the profession so to I'm very flattered to be part of something with his name attached - the Menuhin Competition," he says.
"It's a marvellous way of introducing children to classical music.
"When I was young we had traditional singers and you could understand the words they were singing," he muses. "With pop music these days is sometimes difficult to hear the words."
And he admits that it's jazz that's more his style.
"I love jazz and to watch a jazz musician play is wonderful and I love it," he says warmly. "To me it's so theatrical. To hear it being played transports me and soothes me. I enjoy classical music but what really sets me alight is jazz.
"I've always been a huge admirer of Yehudi Menuhin and saw him play a number of times. I have the happiest memories when he teamed up with Stephane Grapelli and played some jazz. To see the two of them together and their shared love of the instrument was absolutely fabulous - two geniuses together."
And unbelievably given his astonishing career he's never performed at the Royal Festival Hall.
"I have worked in so many theatres in both the West End and around the country but never the Royal Festival Hall before," he says.
And then delightfully he tells me about the too numerous to mention roles that shaped his career over the past 70 years or so.
It all started with a visit to a circus when he was about five and living in Grantham. Seeing the performers entertain the audience was his lightbulb moment and he tells me that from that moment on there was never anything else he wanted to do.
"I would have run away with the circus if they'd asked me," he says chuckling at the memory.
Fortunately he says had parents who encouraged him initially at least, but when as a teenager Nicholas was still determined to be an actor his father demanded he get a proper job and when he was about 16 he was sent to Clydebank near Glasgow to train as an engineer.
If his parents thought it would quash Nicholas's dreams of being an actor they were sadly mistaken and instead he pursued his dream with a fierce determination.
"My parents were horrified that I wanted to be an actor," he says. "My father represented the thinking of the time and wanted me to have a proper job. His side of the family were doctors and I think he was disappointed that I wasn't a doctor.
"My sister had a fascination for medical things but my father didn't encourage her.
"I became an engineer to please my parents and when I was discharged from the National Service I decided to please myself!
"Nowadays everyone wants to go to showbiz but with shows like Britain's Got Talent it's so overcrowded. The contestants all think they have got talent but it's a tough business. I'm only good as my last job."
His first professional job was doing impersonations on the radio but he continued to try for auditions and wrote to theatre managers. Eventually this led to an acting apprenticeship in repertory at Bromley.
"I was so determined," he says. "I did a different play each week and it was the most fabulous experience.
"If you enjoy it you work hard, put up with the disappointment and frustrations, and eventually it leads to something."
One thing did indeed lead to another and in the 70 years since his days in Bromley he has become a Great British institution, starring on both the stage and screen proving his diversity as an actor with roles in shows such as The Rocky Horror Show, Dr Who, The Comic Strip, Charlie Girl, Into The Woods, Uproar in the House and Boeing Boeing.
And of course he has done stand up, comedy shows, serious drama, review and cabaret, written his autobiography and a book of memoirs, been on Celebrity Mastermind, presented shows on TV and radio and has performed at the Edinburgh Festival for many years with his show Nicholas Parsons's Happy Hour.
He is the consummate professional and during our chat is utterly charming, very funny, full of anecdotes and with an infectious enthusiasm for the people he has worked with over the years as well as life itself.
I ask whether he has a favourite in amongst this incredible CV of his, which incidentally shows no sign of being full or finalised.
And forgive the pun but he doesn’t hesitate in his answer.
"I loved Boeing Boeing as it was such fun to do and I have very fond memories of it," he says.
"The Rocky Horror Show was tremendous fun too," he chuckles. "It's a show that engages so much with the audience. I loved it."
And what about Just A Minute? It turns out he didn't really want the job initially and says the pilot was a "disaster".
"We had no idea if it was going to be a hit and never thought it would be such a success," he says. "You never know with these things til it's happened. You just do your job and hope that the public will like it and come back for more. But you mustn't be complacent, you have to keep on your toes."
He says part of its success is all those involved "have fun".
"I think if you can have fun, play the game and have a good rapport with the contestants that's the main thing," he says.
"Paul Merton is a great player. He pulls my leg but the public knows he's doing it as a friend and is having fun. He has a great comic gift.
"Terry Wogan came and did it his way and David Tennant was great - his first show was brilliant.
"We have to keep it fresh and we never have the same four people in a particular recording.
"The enjoyment is communicated with the audience. It's such a difficult game though and so fast that not everyone can do it.
"It calls on the skills of the presenter in terms of comedy and spontaneity. People naturally pause and deviate but you can't do that. It's our job to make it look easy."
So is there anything else he wants to do I wonder? Anything that he's not yet done?
It seems just to keep working is enough though he does admit to having had a hankering to make more documentary films.
"Many years ago when I was making documentary films I thought I would do more but I realised I would have to give up performing," he says.
"I am lucky to get so much work but all these jobs have different disciplines."
And he credits his love of work to his longevity, not just in the business but in life itself.
"I enjoy working, " he says simply. "It keeps me going - I'm certainly not retiring - they will more likely retire me! Besides the more you use your brain it keeps you young."
And to prove a point he lists the engagements he has both before and after the concert at the Royal Festival Hall which includes dates in Hereford, at the Oxford Festival and doing his comedy shows in other venues around the country - a schedule that would exhaust lesser mortals.
"It keeps me busy and out of mischief," he chuckles.

Nicholas Parsons will narrate The Composer Is Dead! part of the Menuhin Competition London 2016, at the Royal Festival Hall on Saturday, April 16. Tickets £10. Visit www.menuhincompetition.org for tickets and full listings.