Toby Scott, Hospice UK’s Head of Communications and Campaigns, reviews a new show about living with Parkinson’s from the writer of Miranda, which premieres next week at the Edinburgh Fringe.
Paul Mayhew-Archer is probably not a household name, but the comedy he has written is: The Vicar of Dibley, My Hero, Miranda just for starters. You would have had to try hard to have never seen anything that he has written.
So it is understandable that his reaction to being diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2011 is to make a joke about it. He has turned those jokes into a stand-up show, called Incurable Optimist, that he will be taking to the Edinburgh Fringe in August, and which I got to see at the preview phase in a tiny room in a London pub.
The show is a combination of his showbiz reminiscences, his life with Parkinson’s and how he plans to keep making the most of things while he can. As you would guess from the shows he has written for, Paul’s comedy is mainstream and not designed to draw blood: it is also very funny. There i’s only one joke about a hospice – and it is breath-taking if at all true – but lots about the reality of Parkinson’s and what it means to have a life-limiting condition.
Although his career was in writing rather than performing, Paul is a natural comic. At the preview, he was still occasionally referring to his notes, and at one point a member of the audience returned his glasses when he dropped them. He is a great storyteller, and has some great stories to tell. There is a little swearing in it, but only because that is the way it happened, such as a fellow Parkinson’s sufferer who can only move his legs by swearing at them.
Paul Mayhew-Archer is, as the title has it, an incurable optimist. He is also a realist who knows what his future with Parkinson’s holds. But he is not afraid to find humour where he can, even if it is his own disastrous attempt to use a public toilet while wearing a winter coat.
Our good friends at the Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care put together “Death on the Fringe” each year, drawing together the shows that relate to death and grief and then offering people a chance to meet up and discuss. Incurable optimist will be a fine addition to that for 2018.
For more information and to buy tickets visit Paul Mayhew-Archer: Incurable Optimist