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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 October 2005, 14:46 GMT 15:46 UK
Ryan and Ronnie relived on stage
Ryan Davies and Ronnie Williams
Ryan and Ronnie were loved by Welsh and English-language fans
The triumphs - and tensions - of Welsh comedians Ryan and Ronnie are recreated in a new play about their double act.

Ryan Davies and Ronnie Williams are shown as gifted entertainers who worked too hard building a big following in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

They became popular in both live performances and in BBC series in both the Welsh and English languages.

Writer Meic Povey's The Life of Ryan and Ronnie will tour Wales and in London from 12 October to 10 December.

You get to see the tension between them - how both of them had very separate ideas in some respects
Actor Aled Pugh

The pair came to prominence at a time when double acts were all the rage, from Morecambe and Wise, Mike and Bernie Winters to the Two Ronnies - one of whom, Ronnie Barker, has just died.

The skinny Ryan was seen as the funny man while the handsome Ronnie was his straight foil.

Their personalities were very different, and writer Povey, who knew both, described their schedule as relentless.

Aled Pugh (L) as Ryan and Kai Owen as Ronnie
Aled Pugh (L) plays Ryan, and Kai Owen takes the role of Ronnie
"A typical day for both of them could be very long," said Povey. "And not the odd day, not the odd week, not the odd month.

"There's no doubt they did too much. And of course as is well known Ronnie did have problems with booze and so on and that sapped his energy."

'Wonderful musician'

Aled Pugh, who plays Ryan said: "When they are in the dressing room, that's when you get the drama in this play because you get to see the tension between them - how both of them had very separate ideas in some respects."

Probably best remembered are the family sketches for their BBC English-language show, which ran from 1971-73.

Ronnie was the father, and Ryan played a Welsh 'mam' with defiantly folded arms ticking off her daughter Phyllis-Doris, but lavishing love on her wayward son Nigel Wyn.

It's very poignant to reflect on the day that Ronnie Barker has died to think about the role that comedians play in the cultural consciousness
Play director Simon Harris

Ryan was just 40 when he died in the United States in 1977 after their partnership broke up. Ronnie commited suicide 20 years later, aged 58.

Over a period of seven years they developed a devoted audience in Wales and increasingly throughout the UK.

Kai Owen, who plays Ronnie, admitted he did not really remember the act, but had "adored" learning about them.

Ryan and Ronnie
Live and TV performances cemented the pair's reputation
"They were so funny," he said. "Ryan was such a talented comedian and a wonderful musician and Ronnie was the perfect straight man."

Play director Simon Harris said: "It's very poignant to reflect on the day that Ronnie Barker has died to think about the role that comedians play in the cultural consciousness and also what makes for their success.

"Is it where they have come from or where they are going to?

"I think that tension about cultural identity is something that does play into the drama."

The Life of Ryan and Ronnie opens at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff on 12 October, and will visit venues throughout Wales and in London.




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