BBC Radio 7, 18 July 2009
Arthur McIlroy, better known as Frank Randle, was one of the top northern
comics in the 1940s and early 1950s, with regular seasons of variety, summer seasons plus a slew of cheaply made yet financially
profitable comedies to his credit. It seemed that he had it all; but Trevor Royle's play showed that Randle remained tormented
by the fact that he never achieved national stardom, despite numerous opportunities to do so. Although billing himself as
the world's greatest comedian, he always played second fiddle to fellow-Lancastrians George Formby and Gracie Fields.
Royle characterized Randle (Keith Clifford) as a deeply unpleasant man, perpetually
unfaithfuly to his wife Queenie (Melissa Davis), who pursued young women in his theatre company with relentless persistence.
If they objected to him, he would either threaten to sack them or expose them as whores. Increasingly dependent on the bottle,
Randle's stage-technique suffered; if audiences did not laugh at his jokes, he berated them. In a theatrical climate still
heavily dictated by censorship - all material had to be submitted to the Lord Chamberlain for approval prior to performance
- Randle repeatedly fell foul of local watch committees by including off-colour jokes. Although ordered to stop by theatre
managers, Randle ignored them, in the mistaken belief that he understood what audiences wanted. Such recklessness led to his
demise, as no one wanted to book him any more.
Hoyle suggested that Randle's character was shaped by his childhood experiences.
The bastard son of a poor woman, he was perpetually tormented by his so-called friends for his lack of a family. Their morality
was clear-cut; you were no one unless you had a legal mother and father. Randle tried to overcome this handicap by inventing
a new identity for himself as a stand-up comic. He started life as Arthur Twist, then changed his name to Randle after one
of his mother's relatives. Despite his best efforts, however, he remained frustrated at his lack of success in a world where
"nothing ever goes right." The play ended with him consigned to a psychiatric ward, virtually destitute and cursing God for
having brought him such bad fortune.
Randle's Scandals boasted a towering central performance by Clifford in
the title role - someone fond of his own voice, yet unable to make headway without offending people. His catchphrase - if
we can describe it as such - was a dulcet croak "Boeuyyyyyy!" which he uttered after taking yet another draught of liquor
to dull his senses. This melancholy bio-drama was directed by Tony Cliff.