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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 13 August, 2002, 12:50 GMT 13:50 UK
Hayes returns over the Rainbow
Hayes and Rainbow buddy Bungle
Hayes presented for years alongside his buddy Bungle

Children's television presenters now seem to be picked from the ranks of thrusting and ambitious young trendies, all fashionably tousled hair and the right jeans.

Resident in the more fashionable parts of London, they await the day their clowning for pre-schoolers wins them the anchor spot on a live music show or some other "credible" job.

It was not always like this. There was a time when children's shows were not ironic, post-modern or anything more than innocent fun, a time when Rainbow ruled the roost.

People coming to see the show are people who have a very affectionate remembrance of Rainbow and they wouldn't want any dark, horrible stuff

Geoffrey Hayes

For 20 years, Geoffrey Hayes and his felt-suited friends George, Zippy and Bungle simply were kids' TV.

But that all came crashing down when Thames Television cancelled the show in 1992, and Hayes is now pouring out the memories at Edinburgh's Fringe.

Hayes is a man with a past. He is also a man who is happy to wallow like a hippo in nostalgia.

For that matter, he is a man who is still associated with a pink hippo while wallowing in nostalgia.

Growing up

The original synopsis for his one-man show spoke of his "hatred for the 90s" and a "torrid saga of jealousy, seduction, ego and lies".

This would seem fair enough for a man last seen on our screens driving a minicab in a Virgin Money advert.

But Hayes said this dark Rainbow-based fantasy soon evaporated and was replaced by a new script full of fond reminiscences.

George the Hippo
George the Hippo still has a wide fan base

"The original script I didn't like... People coming to see the show are people who have a very affectionate remembrance of Rainbow and they wouldn't want any dark, horrible stuff," he said.

Instead, the show is a semi-fictionalised account of the demise of the show, tailored for the "20- and 30-year-olds who grew up with Rainbow".

He described his performance as a one-man-show set in 1992, in which he reminisces about how the "Rainbow family" got together.

"It could be the truth or it might not be. You have to judge that for yourself," he said.

"Half way through the show I find the programme has been dropped. I go on to try and find out why the programme had been axed."

Needless to say, Hayes revealed: "It all ends up happy-ever-after."

But it did not end happily in real life for Hayes, for whom the decade since the end of the show has not been easy.

No regrets

A serious actor before he took on the Rainbow mantle, Hayes had appeared in plays like The Caretaker and Macbeth, as well as being a regular character in classic police drama Z-Cars.

But 20 years of marshalling a giant camp bear and a pink hippopotamus goes one stage beyond typecasting.

"It's too late to worry about typecasting now," he insisted.

"[In the show] there are serious moments as well as the fun.

"Hopefully I might be able to show I can act. I'm an actor. I just want to act."

Hayes would jump at the chance to take on a serious role again, but much of his work now is still off the back of Rainbow.

'Bananas'

After working through every possible permutation of pantomime roles in the 1980s, he is still doing the summer seasons.

He recently added School Disco - a club night in which attendees wear school uniform - to his repertoire.

Twenty- and 30-somethings around the UK go to these disco nights to do their utmost to reminisce about their schooldays while drowning themselves in melon-flavoured alcopops, so Hayes' currency has perked up a bit.

He is still recognised in the street, but his reception for the appearances with George, Zippy and Bungle at School Disco is something else.

"They go bananas. It's like being pop stars," he confided.

"It happens to me so often. Someone will come up to me and say thank you for being part of my childhood."

Hayes said he is without bitterness or regret, still talking of "the 20 happiest years of my life".

And if you get to spend 20 years doing what you love, you can always see it as 20 more than many people ever manage.

Over the Rainbow is on at Edinburgh's Pleasance Dome.

Coverage of the 2002 Edinburgh Festival from BBC News Online

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12 Jul 02 | Entertainment
12 Jul 01 | Entertainment
26 Jul 02 | England
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