He grew up with The Beatles in Liverpool and forged a career at the famous Cavern Club, but Ozzie Yue finally switched from music to acting in the 1980s and has never looked back. Viv Hardwick hears how he landed the title role in Kensuke's Kingdom and has hopes of movie stardom.

OZZIE Yue switched from acting to music as a result of growing up alongside The Beatles in Liverpool and the singer-guitarist went on to set an unofficial record of appearances at the city's famous Cavern Club.

But he parted company from the dream of following the Fab Four to fame in the 1980s and returned to acting. A series of oriental roles on TV followed, including Preston Front, Father Ted and Coronation Street, before Ozzie went back on tour... with the acclaimed Birmingham Stage Company version of Kensuke's Kingdom.

The family show runs at Newcastle Theatre Royal during the week of June 27-July 1 and is the last stage production to appear before the venue goes dark until October for £5 million of improvements.

Ozzie, now 58, has to age considerably to play 75-year-old Kensuke, the Japanese soldier on a desert island who meets up with castaway boy Michael in an adaptation of Michael Morpurgo's book.

"This is the first stint of professional stage touring I've done," he explains. "The story is great and a mix of everything which really holds the children's attention. It's Robinson Crusoe meets The War with a touch of Jungle Book with orangutans," says Ozzie, playing a character who thinks his whole family has been wiped out by the nuclear bomb.

"Initially I had a beard that I stuck on but I developed an allergy to the glue and the solvent required to take it off because we're getting up to around 250 shows now. I did two or three performances in Cardiff where my eyes were swollen and half-closed and I looked like I'd done ten rounds with Mike Tyson. So I've started growing my own beard," he adds.

Ozzie recalls earning his Equity card as a result of playing the clubs and pubs as a band member in the early 1980s.

"Some of the theatres we're doing I've actually played at as a musician but in the North-East previously I've played at the City Hall and back in the Sixties I did the Club A-go-go with The Animals," he recalls.

The shift across to acting came when he was offered some work as an extra with Manchester-based Granada TV.

"Because of the kind of person I am when I started out working for Granada TV I didn't get the 'stand around in the background' kind of parts. I was one or very few oriental-looking actors at that time. A London agent saw my photograph in casting and said 'you don't do any more extras work from now on'," he explains.

Recalling the exciting days when Liverpool's most famous band changed the course of music history, Ozzie says: "Paul McCartney and George Harrison were a couple of years ahead of me at school (Liverpool Institute High) and John Lennon used to be next door at the Arts School and I used to watch them meet up. I'll always remember George's loud waistcoats.

"During that period they started playing at the Cavern and I sneaked down to watch them once or twice. But there were a whole load of bands at that time, like The Hollies and Gerry And the Pacemakers. Most musicians actually admired The Shadows at that time, a good Stockton-on-Tees group, and we moved on from practicing in front of the mirror with a cricket bat," he explains. Ozzie formed a group called the Hideaways, managed by legendary Cavern DJ Bob Wooler, who introduced The Beatles to the world.

"So we used to do a lot of gigs there which weren't officially recorded. In fact I once played The Cavern four times in one day. We were filmed by Timex watches for the famous tick-a-tick advert at 7am, came back and did a Saturday kids session, then did an evening show and then went back and did an all-nighter. I remember Bob telling us back in about 1967 that The Beatles appearances were something like 396 but I know we did something like 500... in fact the band called Supercharge, which I finished up with, were the last band to play on the old Cavern before it was filled in," he laughs.

With a long run of Kensuke's Kingdom planned, Ozzie has few worries about future earnings by pretending to be a 75-year-old. There's even talk of a film version.

"I've accepted an offer to keep touring in the autumn and then we're going into the Bloomsbury Theatre in London over Christmas and there's some talk of a film. HBO have take the rights for the film and I know the scriptwriter and he's keeping me informed. They've probably got someone like Ken Watanabe (the Japanese star seen recently in Memoirs Of A Geisha) in mind, but you never know."

* Kensuke's Kingdom plays Newcastle Theatre Royal, June 27-July 1. Box Office: 0870 905 5060.