Performer turns from death's door to stage stirring comeback

Nigel Osner

Nigel Osner - Credit: Michael McConaghy

In January Nigel Osner was on the brink of death after his heart stopped during a routine operation that went wrong.

Nine months later, after teaching himself to walk again, the 73-year-old from Hampstead Garden Suburb will step out in front of a crowd in Finchley to perform his one-man play.

The show – Too young to stay in, too old to go out! – reflects a remarkable personal comeback with a series of stories looking at life as people grow older. 

Recalling his near-fatal health scare and a renewed appreciation for the stage, Nigel told the Ham&High: “I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to do this again.  

“First of all I wasn’t sure if I was going to remember anything because they [the doctors] thought my brain might have been injured.  

“I’ve had to explain that I've always been like this, and I think I've convinced them,” Nigel said.  

Back in January, the performer was all set to have a relatively uncomplicated cardiac procedure.  

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However when a catheter went through the wall of his heart, it stopped beating entirely and had to be manually compressed for 40 minutes.  

Following an emergency sternotomy, the former barrister came out the other side, albeit with a damaged lung – but now he's vowed he’s back to full strength, and ready to entertain once again.  

“I was asleep for about four days and when I came around all my muscles had gone,” Nigel said.   

“It’s incredible how quickly they fade away. I was just lying there and I had to learn and find the strength to get up.  

“I couldn’t even get out of my bed on my own. It took two people to help me do that.

"Bit by bit I had to learn to walk, move and work again. The problem was that they gave me a lot of morphine which gave me hallucinations.  

“I kept seeing what I thought was my house being sold on television.”

Nigel Osner

Nigel Osner - Credit: Peter Williams

Nigel added: “I didn't know if I had the strength to perform but I have, fortunately. I can do it. 

“I don’t want people to come and think ‘oh my God he's going to collapse in the middle of a play’, because that isn't the case.” 

Too young to stay in, too old to go out! will be in the Bothy Garden at Stephens House and Gardens on September 12 at 3pm.  

To book tickets visit