Friday, 11 August 2017

Radio Review: 11 August

A subversive, anarchic and resolutely Northern comic

Written by Louis Barfe
As you’ve probably guessed by now, I’m a sucker for anything to do with old comedians. Lancashire legend Frank Randle has exercised a huge fascination over me for decades, Louis-Barfe-colour-176partly because so little evidence of his work survives outside of a handful of cheaply made films. The rest of the fascination comes from the stories that surround him.

Randle is reputed to have kept a crate of Guinness under his bed and slept with a bottle opener around his neck on a string, just in case he needed refreshment in the night. After calling an over-exuberant audience ‘b*****ds’, he swore blind to Cissie Williams of moss empires that he was trying to calm them down by saying ‘enough’ in Italian: ‘basta’.

Presaging rock and roll by a good 30-odd years, he settled a disagreement with the owner of the Hulme Hippodrome in Manchester by smashing up his dressing room, wrenching the sink off the wall with his bare hands. He looked weak, incorporating jokes about his spindly legs into his act (‘I tossed a sparrow for these and lost’), but he was wiry. As a result, I’m particularly grateful to Radio 4 Extra for repeating Trevor Hoyle’s 1992 play Randle’s Scandals, which I have unaccountably managed to miss several times over the last quarter century. The premise, Randle in therapy after drunkenly driving his Lagonda into a tram on Blackpool prom, is the perfect setting to revisit some of the stories from his troubled life.

The writing is superb, but it is Keith Clifford’s sympathetic yet unflinching portrayal of a fairly unlikeable man that makes the 90 minutes fly past. Clifford won a sony for his performance, and deservedly so. If you’re anything like me with regard to old comedians, I suggest a visit to iPlayer as soon as possible.

Louis on Twitter: @AlanKelloggs or email: 

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