The Lights are back on: Iconic show being brought to life by ‘am-dram’ crew

City Lights, Gaiety Theatre, Ayr, Wed-Sat.
City Lights, Gaiety Theatre, Ayr, Wed-Sat.

BEFORE Rab C Nesbitt, Chewin’ The Fat or Still Game, there was City Lights.

Now the much-loved 80s sitcom is returning – and its creator fears this may be its swansong.

The classic BBC comedy, which starred Gerard Kelly, is being revived this week after creator Bob Black gave permission to an amateur theatre group to perform the stage version.

And the writer believes this may be the only opportunity for a new generation of fans to see the comedy.

Unlike other Scottish comedies, City Lights has never been released on DVD or shown on Netflix.

“It seems to still be talked about very fondly but for some reason it didn’t come out on DVD,” Bob said.

City Lights creator Bob Black (Sunday Post)
City Lights creator Bob Black (Sunday Post)

“I was always surprised and disappointed that no one ever made the effort.

“Maybe it’s like the lost Hancock episodes and they ended up in a bin somewhere. When the Ayr Fort Players approached me to ask if they could perform one of our stage adaptations, I was thrilled.

“I’m going along to a performance and it will be quite strange to see a different cast performing it so many years later.”

The sitcom centred on Willie Melvin (Kelly), an egotistical bank-teller who dreamed of becoming a novelist, despite his lack of writing ability.

He was joined in his weekly adventures by best friend and appropriately-named Chancer (Andy Gray), dim pal Tam (Iain McColl), his unsupportive mother (Jan Wilson), his boss Mr McLelland (Dave Anderson) and kowtowing fellow worker, Brian (Johnathan Watson).

His love interests were Janice (Elaine Collins) in the first two series and Fiona (Ann Bryson) in later episodes.

The pilot episode was shown at the end of 1984 and the full series began around 18 months later. By 1987, it was shown across the UK and overseas.

It ran for six series and ended in 1991.

Bob continued: “It was my first TV writing project. I had been a writer of romantic fiction, working for DC Thomson titles like Jackie and Blue Jeans in the’ 70s.

“I went freelance and it took five years before I had the City Lights breakthrough.

“I considered myself very lucky and I attended all of the filming. The novelty and thrill never wore off.

“I was blown away by some of the guest stars we had, like Billy Connolly.

“It was fondly thought of and I’ve never had such great fun on a job before or since.”

Suzanne McLellan of the Ayr Fort Players approached her friend Dave Anderson, who put her in touch with Bob about staging The Life and Death of Willie Melvin.

She said: “Bob was more than happy to help and even gave us his original typewritten script. No one other than the original cast has performed the show, so there are big shoes to fill, but we’re looking forward to it.”

City Lights, Gaiety Theatre, Ayr, Wed-Sat.