This week the Melbourne theatre community farewelled stage legend Frederick Parslow from the stage of the Union Theatre, University of Melbourne. Fellow actors Anne Phelan, Don Bridges, Gary Down (and the ghost of Frank Thring channelled by Michael Carman) remembered him for his wit and elegance, his immense theatrical range and for his wicked sense of humour both on and off stage.
Parslow made his acting debut in Peter O’Shaughnessy’s Hamlet in 1954. Talent-spotted by Union Theatre Repertory Company (UTRC) director John Sumner he joined the touring production of Twelfth Night alongside cast members Barry Humphries, Zoe Caldwell, Ray Lawler and Malcolm Robertson in 1955. In a career spanning almost 30 years and 300 roles Parslow became the quintessential leading man moving effortlessly between tragedy and comedy.
His performance as Richard II in the 1963 UTRC production of the same name set a new benchmark for the industry and throughout the 1970s and 1980s he gave memorable performances in productions including The Caucasian Chalk Circle (1970), The Revenger’s Tragedy (1975), Einstein (1981), On Our Selection (1982) and A Fortunate Life (1984).
A theatre actor at heart, Parslow appeared in the films Alvin Purple (1973) and The Last Wave (1977) and on television as the Friday Night host of In Melbourne Tonight.
Frederick Parslow was made a Member of the Order of Australia for his services to the performing arts in 1987. He is survived by his son Justin Harris Parslow, his wife, actor, teacher, mentor Joan Harris Parslow having predeceased him in September last year.