What ever did happen to the Likely Lads?

They both ended up in boats, James Bolam in the 1970s’ series When The Boat Comes In and Rodney Bewes in his one-man touring show Three Men In A Boat.

Now 72, Yorkshireman Rodney is on home turf this evening when he drives to Harrogate Theatre in his ten-year-old Ford Mondeo, with a boat on the roof, to present his 100-minute adaptation of Jerome K Jerome’s amusing riparian adventure.

“I’ve just had the car serviced and the service cost more than the car’s worth, but I love touring around on my own in it,” he says.

“What’s made me do it again is that I was asked to do it at the Edinburgh Fringe for a fourth time. I thought no one would come, as it was surely ridiculous to do it again, but it went really well,” says Rodney, who first performed the show in 1994/1995 and continues to direct, produce, promote and even assemble the set for each performance.

“I thought Edinburgh was for young people who stick their tongue out, but I was wrong. I’ve done the show at four-yearly intervals, and I thought that if I’m doing Edinburgh again, I might as well go to places that I love, like Kendal and Harrogate.”

Set in 1912, 23 years after the book was written, his adaptation revolves around Jerome as narrator recalling his japes, scrapes and narrow escapes with friends George and Harris on his skiff on the Thames.

“It’s like a Ray Cooney farce or an Agatha Christie thriller: the British public know what to expect if a poster says ‘Rodney Bewes in Three Men In A Boat’. People think, ‘How can he do all three men in a boat?’, and I love it that the first line is, ‘And there were four of us’, as there’s Montmorency, the dog on wheels.

“I now bring him on with a fishing rod; the reel goes clackety-clackety round and on he comes on his wheels. He gets a round of applause…and I say, ‘He hasn’t even said anything yet’.”

Since this interview was conducted, Rodney has auditioned for a part in EastEnders, so wait and see if he has been successful. “My wife just said, ‘Ah, but can you work with other people?... but I can! I’ve just done an episode of Heartbeat,” he protests.

In 2012, Rodney, below, will celebrate 60 years as an actor; you should not rule out another return for his boating saga.

“As one reviewer said, this show is like a hand-knitted cardi at a Jean Paul Gaultier fashion show; I’d rather be a hand-knitted cardi,” he says.

“I say to people that this year is definitely the final tour, possibly your last chance to see it, and I don’t mean it at all, like Shirley Bassey or Frank Sinatra: The Final Tour.”

Rodney Bewes in Three Men In A Boat, Harrogate Theatre, tonight at 7.30pm. Box office 01423 502116. Visit rodneybewes3meninaboat.com for tour details