Reviewer: Mark Smith
John Challis AKA Boycie of ‘Only Fools and Horses’ fame presented a fascinating evening of insight and anecdote at The Unity theatre, Liverpool. It was interesting programming on behalf of the Unity and something I hope they will continue to do in the future as the sell out audience had a fantastic time in the company of John Challis.
A very simple format of chat and film extracts would on the whole sound like quite a dull evening, but John Challis is a skilful performer with real presence and of course the material is all his. He is clearly at ease and appears to be having a great deal of fun which enables him to charm the audience while giving us snap shot of his career to date.
The first half was fascinating and it became clear, that here is a man who has embraced life and its opportunities before becoming a household name. A fantastic running gag based on the joyful days of when you could smoke neatly encapsulated the first half, fascinating tit bits, this chronological format worked as the audience were hungry for the main course where the focus shifts to his time in, ‘Only Fools and Horses’. This is the main reason people have come and he does not disappoint, offering fascinating insight into the creative process of the happy accident and the chance conversation.
He goes on to explain how some of the most iconic moments were created in this manner for example the naming of Boycie and the famous falling through the bar. It was clear that the team working on the ‘Only Fools and Horses’ set played as much a key rôle, feeding the genius of John Sullivan as the characters they created from his writing. Challis explains, that the spin off series for Boycie and Marlene came about as a result of his birthday bash at his rambling new/old home.
The one criticism I would make for the evening was the Q and A section at the end of the show, this was handled well on the whole apart from it was rushed when there were numerous questions left unanswered and it became clear that Challis wanted to flog his numerous items of merchandise in the foyer, this was sadly clunky and tarnished what was up to this point a brilliant evening.
If you fancy an alternative night out, then go and catch John Challis as he is a fascinating showman. He also left those new to the Unity with the rallying cry of support your local theatre and to that I could not agree more.