Has he got news for you – Angus Deayton is back

Angus Deayton, left, with his fellow cast members Philip Pope, Helen Atkinson Wood and Michael Fenton Stevens

Angus Deayton, left, with his fellow cast members Philip Pope, Helen Atkinson Wood and Michael Fenton Stevens

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One of Britain’s biggest comedy names has revealed he is to return to the stage at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe where he made his debut almost 40 years ago.

Angus Deayton entered the world of showbusiness performing sketches with Blackadder Spitting Image creator Richard Curtis while they were both at Oxford University.

Now the 60-year-old star of Have I Got News For You, Mr Bean and One Foot in the Grave is to return to his Oxford Revue roots after “rediscovering” his love of the festival in recent years while he was working on Waterloo Road in Glasgow.

He decided to revive his cult Radio 4 comedy show “Radio Active” by taking it back to its on-stage origins at the Fringe after drawing inspiration from a tribute to classic comedy Hancock’s Half Hour last year.

That production was masterminded by actor Neil Pearson after he discovered scripts from missing episodes wiped from the BBC’s archives.

Deayton, who suffered a very public downfall when allegations about his private life were published in 2002, resulting in him being dropped as host of Have I Got News For You, will reunite Radio Active’s original cast to perform archive scripts which he has kept from his time on the long-running show.

When he appears with co-stars Helen Atkinson-Wood, Michael Fenton Stevens and Philip Pope at at the Pleasance Courtyard in August it will his first live stage appearance since the 1980s, when he toured the world with another Fringe veteran, Rowan Atkinson.

Deayton said: “The original Radio Active show we brought up to Edinburgh was called You’ll Have Had Your Tea. I think we actually came up with the title before we came up with the show. We never actually performed it in Oxford, we only ever did it in Edinburgh, it was pretty much a child of the festival.

“We performed it in St Mary’s Street Hall, which the Oxford Revue shared with the Cambridge Footlights.

“The show was based around a commercial radio station, as that had just started in those days. All the sketches were linked by a DJ on stage.

“By the following year the show had become Radio Active and that one to the series on Radio 4, although they were pretty lukewarm about the whole thing until we won an award and suddenly we were the blue-eyed boys.

“We came back to Edinburgh under our own steam quite a few times after we left Oxford. I remember playing the old Caley Cinema when we were the biggest-selling show.”

Radio Active, largely written by Deayton and the late Geoffrey Perkins, who also performed, ran for seven years on Radio 4 before being adapted for BBC 2 and renamed KYTV.

Deayton, who was Atkinson’s “straight man” in many of his live shows, worked with him on his hit TV shows Mr Bean and Blackadder, and played Victor Meldrew’s neighbour in One Foot in the Grave.

It was launched in 1990, the same year as Have I Got News For You, which Deayton presented for 12 years until a very public downfall when a string of claims about his private life were reported.

Deayton returned as a BBC presenter on the panel show Would I Lie To You in 2007 and also appeared in the series Absolute Power, Nighty Night and Pramface.

It was while filming Waterloo Road in Glasgow between 2013 and 2015 that he returned to experience the Fringe for the first time since the mid-1980s.

He was persuaded to go and see the Hancock’s Half Hour revival at the Fringe last year by Neil Pearson, a co-star of Waterloo Road.

He added: “It was going to see the Hancock’s Half Hour show last year that gave my the idea to bring back Radio Active.

“The idea will be to take some of the best scripts of Radio Active and do them in Edinburgh this summer.

“It was interesting how little they changed from the original scripts for the Hancock show.

“It gave it a kind of nostalgic flavour, but it didn’t affect how accessible it was to a modern audience. I’m hoping that will be same for ours.

“We won’t be updating the scripts we will be using for show. There will still be references to 1980s personalities and events. It will be an archive piece, as it were.

“When I came up to Edinburgh in 1978 for the show which Richard Curtis wrote and directed it was pretty much my first experience of being on a stage, as I’d never acted before.

“It was quite a large cast. Philip and I had only met him once before in a curry house in Oxford.

“It was pretty much on the back of that meeting that he rang up later and said: ‘Two people have pulled out of the Oxford Revue show. Do you want to be in it?’

“I really rediscovered the Fringe a few years ago. I was surprised at how little it had changed when I came back. The thing that had changed most was the size of it. I thought the size of the comedy brochure last year was roughly the same size as the brochure for the whole festival back in my day.”

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