MOST people are familiar with Boycie, the flambouyant car salesman from the classic TV sitcom Only Fools and Horses.

They are probably less familiar with the man who played him, with distinction, between 1981 and 1996.

When John Challis walked onto the Queen’s Hall stage in Hexham for one night only last week, fans of the show were on tenterhooks.

There was no sign of David Jason, Nicholas Lyndhurst, or other stars of the legendary London-based comedy, but Challis represented them all.

He was at the venue for Only Fools and Boycie, an evening with John Challis, to talk about his time on the iconic series, written by John Sullivan, and also to give an account of his career before and after his most famous role.

But what would he be like? Would he be anything like Boycie, or would he even take to the stage in character?

His polite “good evening” was much warmer a welcome than he’d give most of the regulars in the Nag’s Head.

Within seconds however, came the moment the whole audience had been waiting for - the distinctive deep laugh.

Challis was acutely aware that the everyone present knew Boycie, and it was great to see him bring the character to life when referring to some of Only Fools’ most memorable moments.

The evening also provided a fascinating insight into the life and times of Challis, who was a promising theatre star before landing a part in Only Fools.

He worked for the Royal Shakespeare Company, and had roles in several well known TV shows during the 1960s and 1970s.

Challis starred in Doctor Who, Citizen Smith, and the Sweeney, among others, and had cameo appearances included Open All Hours and Coronation Street.

His captivating talk was accompanied by archive footage, which showed him playing various police officer roles, with one court appearance in Citizen Smith proving significant. 

Challis revealed how these small, yet vital parts led to the style which he would developed into that of Boycie.

An avid football fan, Challis also talked about how he had to work on stage during the 1966 World Cup final, and revealed how he and other cast members of King Lear managed to keep an eye on developments at Wembley, as England defeated West Germany 4-2.

Only Fools and Boycie was a fascinating insight into the life of a man who went on to reprise his most famous character in the spin-off comedy, the Green Green Grass.

As affable off-stage as he was on it, Challis chatted and posed for photos afterwards, and even delivered his famous ‘Jeremy Beadle’ line from the 1991, Class of ’62 episode.

Challis is on tour this year, and his one man show is well worth attending.