Star of the 1960s TV series The Likely Lads, Rodney Bewes shares some of Dylan Thomas’ short stories about his childhood. The one-man show takes sections from Thomas’ novels, such as Early One Morning and Portrait of an Artist as a Young Dog, selecting those that best fit in with the show’s title, As a Boy Growing Up.
Set in a vintage BBC recording studio, Bewes reads the stories as if he were recording them, stepping into character as soon as he presses the play button and the green light goes on. Sometimes making mistakes, either genuine or as part of his character, he continues the pretence of the studio setting, chastising himself when a fragment needs to be re-read. Describing school-boy tales of sexual maturation or relationships with family and friends, Bewes adopts the different styles in an attempt to differentiate between the mature adults and the boy growing up. Unfortunately, his monotonous speaking voice does not aid this distinction, and whilst his hand gestures suggest different speakers, the characters and stories, all blur into one.
Although the recording studio premise is cleverly presented, Bewes does not really pull off the one-man show and his use of notes seems a little unprofessional. Whilst committed Dylan Thomas enthusiasts will enjoy the recital of his work, and fans of The Likely Lads will appreciate Bewes’ stage presence and occasional banter with the audience, the slow delivery of the stories makes the performance a little tiring. the actor himself asks: ‘Are you enjoying it? I sometimes think it’s too long’. I think he might be right.