The co-creator of the classic BBC sitcom The Vicar Of Dibley and one-time producer of radio staple I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, Paul Mayhew-Archer provides an hour of gently humorous stories about his Parkinson’s as well as his career in radio and television.
He is a natural storyteller who manages to make light of the many symptoms arising from his condition, describing a group of friends who individually have one of the symptoms of Parkinson’s as an ideal subject matter for a sitcom. In addition, the audience is treated to interesting behind the scenes stories about Dibley, such as Mayhew-Archer’s script reading incident that led to him getting the unfortunate nickname of ‘Fuckwit’ amongst cast and crew, as well as being the real inspiration for the eccentric Dibley parish council. An earlier anecdote about David Jason injuring himself is also hilarious, although not something that the actor himself would like to remember!
However, Mayhew-Archer also touches upon more serious topics, such as the very different way that his mother’s diagnosis and eventual death from cancer was handled, revealing how British attitudes towards illness and disability have changed over time. He also uses the hour to provide information about the social stigma Parkinson’s carries as well as the types of therapy provided for sufferers, such as the memory test that he gets the audience to repeat – fortunately most of them (not including the reviewer) pass it!
However, Incurable Optimist mostly provides Mayhew-Archer with the opportunity to entertain with his stories, and even the more serious aspects of the evening contain enough humour to have the audience laughing. This is an hour in the company of an experienced raconteur and packed with jokes and stories that are memorable. Mayhew-Archer shows that you don’t have to treat serious medical conditions like a death sentence – you can make light of them.