David Parkin finds out why all the world is a stage and ponders his demise

ONE of our most celebrated Shakespearean actors was the rather surprise guest speaker at last week’s Harrogate Business Lunch.

Simon Callow followed in the footsteps of entertaining and inspiring raconteurs including Brian Blessed, Sir Matthew Pinsent…and Barry from Eastenders.

Mind you, I don’t think anyone else could get the reaction he did just by shouting: “Janine!”

I mentioned a couple of months ago how I had been invited to the lunch by Philip Jordan, corporate partner at law firm Ward Hadaway.

At the time I misheard who the guest speaker was and thought it was X Factor guru Simon Cowell, which Phil didn’t appreciate as he is a big fan of Simon Callow’s work.

I have to say I didn’t realise Phil had a theatrical bent, but then given he is from Hull I’d imagine he’s kept it hidden for years.

Perhaps expecting lots of ‘luvvie’ stories from the stage, I went along to the Pavilions in Harrogate not expecting much.

But Simon Callow was hugely entertaining with a dry, self-deprecating sense of humour and, clearly, an appreciation of the earthier elements of British TV and theatre.

Not much of an academic, his career in the theatre began when he blagged a job working in the box office at the Old Vic theatre after writing a fan letter to Sir Laurence Olivier who was artistic director of the National Theatre.

Inspired by what he saw on the stage at the Old Vic, he went on to become an actor, but told the audience that his early memories were not of treading the boards rubbing shoulders with our great thespians.

No, it was appearing in a TV production with the Carry On team with Sid James playing Sir Walter Raleigh and Hattie Jacques as Queen Elizabeth I.

The title of the show was ‘Orgy and Bess’.

Sadly his tour de force performance was cut from the final version that went out on TV.

Of course, Simon Callow is probably best known for his larger than life performances on screen.

He was the Reverend Mr Beebe in A Room With A View and Gareth in Four Weddings and a Funeral.

An accomplished writer too, Simon has written a biography of stage and screen giant Charles Laughton and three volumes of what must be the definitive biography of Orson Welles.

In fact Phil Jordan, who sat next to Simon at the lunch last week, said that he had told him was off to New York to work on the fourth volume and final about Welles, which focuses on his declining years.

Simon is also a huge fan of Tommy Cooper and indulged in a few minutes of the best gags from the fez-wearing genius – complete with gravelly voice and coarse chuckle.

He then reflected on the continuing popularity of pantomime in British theatre and its very clear connections to early theatre in which audience participation was not frowned upon but positively encouraged.

Simon played the villain Abanazer in Aladdin in panto in Lincoln and said he gave much thought to how he could portray the epiphany which the evil antagonist of Aladdin undergoes as he changes from a hateful man to one who is good.

“I felt Abanazer should lose his beard and come on stage for the final scene smiling and carrying a bunch of flower,” Simon told the audience.

“But I don’t think the youngsters of Lincoln were quite ready for it. They took one look at the transformed Abanazer and shouted: ‘F*** off, you poof’.”


AN email arrives from the reception staff at my office building in Leeds.

“Please note the Property Manager will be conducting a walk around today with external visitors. They may require access into your demise.”

You what?

My first thought was that if my demise is imminent I’d rather not share it with external visitors.

And the second was that they must have used the wrong word.

But a bit of a Google showed me that I only know one meaning of the word demise.

Apparently demise means to transfer by lease and ‘demised premises’ generally refers to premises that have been transferred by lease as opposed to the ‘retained parts’ kept by the landlord.

I always like to learn a new word everyday.

Whether I’ll use it again is another matter.


PROFESSIONAL services firm Deloitte held a farewell dinner last night for Martin Jenkins.

Martin left the firm last month after 28 years to join Zenith, the vehicle leasing business whose management he advised for many years.

I first met Martin when he was an earnest young dealmaker who very quickly rose through the Deloitte ranks to become head of corporate finance in Yorkshire and then office head for Yorkshire and the North East.

During that time he was working on some of the biggest and most complex deals in both Yorkshire as well as nationally and internationally.

His colleague Cahal Dowds, vice chairman at Deloitte, put that in perspective during his speech at last night’s dinner.

He said Martin had been involved in 150 deals during his time at Deloitte which added up to a total value of more than £5bn.

Guests at the dinner included Deloitte colleagues as well as many of the lawyers, bankers, venture capitalists and corporate executives that Martin has worked with over the years.

As I was stepping into the lift on the 10th floor of Deloitte’s office in City Square, in walked a face I recognised.

Alan Peterson is a Cardiff-born businessman who is described by the Western Mail as “one of Wales’ most successful entrepreneurs and investors”.

He is currently chairman of HSS, Pattonair and BBI.

He remembered me interviewing him when I was London Editor of the Western Mail and he was the chief executive of Meyer International, the £1.5bn group which owned builders merchants Jewson.

He told me that he is currently busier than ever as chairman of Wales and British Lions captain Sam Warburton’s testimonial year.

Mind you, he has a bit of experience helping out Welsh rugby players having chaired the testimonial committees for Welsh internationals including Rob Howley, Martyn Williams and Ryan Jones.


MEANWHILE, breaking news from the BBC’s coverage of the Winter Olympics…it’s cold.

Have a great weekend.

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