For those people of my generation who grew up in the 1970s, 2015 has been a sad year. So many ‘weel-kent’ faces from that era have passed away this year. The likes of Patrick Macnee – John Steed of The Avengers – Irish singer Val Doonican, Liverpool’s Cilla Black and Stephen Lewis aka Inspector Blake of hit comedy series On the Buses, have all taken their leave in recent weeks.
So when I saw another favourite of mine from four decades ago – comedy actor Rodney Bewes – was appearing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this month, I simply had to go and see him live.
Bewes and his co-star James Bolam played Bob and Terry in the hit television comedy series The Likely Lads in the 1960s and its 1970s follow-up Whatever Happened to The Likely Lads. Bewes and Bolam played a couple of loveable Geordie ‘characters’ who kept the nation amused with their antics for more than a decade.
While Bolam has a string of television credits to his name in the intervening years, most recently in the BBC series New Tricks, one may be forgiven for asking whatever happened to his pal Rodney Bewes? Well, during his one hour show at Edinburgh’s Assembly Rooms in George Street, Bewes – now 78 – is happy to tell his adoring public what he has been up to. He has been heavily involved in the theatre in a variety of shows including A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Funny Money, The Odd Couple, Three Men in a Boat and The Diary of a Nobody.
Bewes told the story of how he got the part in Whatever Happened to The Likely Lads thanks to his part in the film Billy Liar where he played alongside his good friend Tom Courtenay in the early 1960s. He also regaled the story of a working-class boy from the North who washed-up by night to fund studying at RADA. In his own words, Bewes describes his laddish behaviour in swinging London with some of the biggest stars of the day.
Bewes entertained those in attendance at the Assembly Rooms with tales of his career and, while he may have ‘struggled with new technology’ (a cd player that played the theme tune to Whatever Happened to The Likely Lads at the beginning of his show) and had to refer to his notes a couple of times, the glint in his eye displayed a sharp sense of humour that hasn’t diminished over the years.
After the show he gladly signed photographs and chatted with those who had seen his show – something not all of today’s ‘stars’ can claim.
The show will appeal to those who still remember Whatever Happened to The Likely Lads (the programme is still being shown on the UK Gold channel) although perhaps not so much to those who have never seen the show. But it’s a splendid hour nonetheless.