Review: Rodney Bewes - Whatever Happened To The Likely Lad

Rodney Bewes
Rodney Bewes
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“THE only thing to look forward to is the past...” Prophetic words.

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Assembly Rooms, George Street

77-year-old Rodney Bewes begins his latest one-man Fringe show by playing the theme tune of The Likely Lads, the 1960s/70s sitcom for which he is best remembered.

“The audience yesterday put their arms in the air, like this...” he says, gently swaying in time to the music.

Some of the audience today take the hint.

With well-practised charm and a sharply-honed line in self-deprecation, Bewes then embarks on a chronological trip through his life and career.

He was a poorly child, got his first acting job at the age of 12 after writing to a TV producer, and from there never looked back.

A part in the 1963 movie Billy Liar, opposite Tom Courtenay, landed him the role of Bob Ferris in The Likely Lads, which first aired the following year and ran until 1966.

It returned in colour as Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? in 1973, attracting up to 26 million viewers...

“Half the population of the country at the time,” Bewes reminds us.

For all the success of the series, however, Bewes seems reluctant to go into detail, referring to his co-star only as “the other boy in The Likely Lads.”

Not once does the name James Bolam pass his lips in the hour-long show.

It’s a fascinating insight into the actor’s psyche. The pair famously fell out and you get the impression Bolam’s refusal to embrace subsequent offers to revisit the series sits badly with his co-star.

In between the two incarnations of The Likley Lads, Bewes made four of another sitcom, Dear Mother... Love Albert. He positively sparkles when he talks about this, but then he did, write, produce and star in it himself. He even sang the theme tune.

He insists he is “not bitter” that it had to make way for Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads. You sense, when he says that, it is laced with irony.

He may be a glass half full man but Bewes is also a consummate storyteller. He chatters on effortlessly, name-dropping the stars of his day with wit and just a hint of devilment - Laurence Olivier, Alec Guinness, Ralph Richardson and Melvin Hayes all get a mention. Not always favourably.

He bemoans that he never saw a percentage cut for the reruns of his work and is now “a pauper”, chuckles as he recalls a commercial he wrote for Bird’s Eye, which opened with the line, “Hello faggot lovers everywhere, I’ve got news for you from Bird’s Eye.”

He laughs, “What would they have made of that in America?” he asks.

Bewes finishes as he began with a piece of music... a contemporary track with a chorus that champions, “I want to be Rodney Bewes....” The recognition makes him smile. But who exactly is Rodney Bewes? We might now know a little bit more about him, but there’s so much left unsaid that should there be a follow-up show, there certainly is more of his past to look forward to.

Until August 30