WAY back in 1958, before we had even begun to imagine the Swinging Sixties, when Britain lived out its own kitchen sink drama, vast sections of the public flooded into variety theatre.

And one act that became immensely popular emerged from an idea by the legendary Stanley Baxter. While working in the Five Past Eight Show at the Alhambra, the comedy actor came up with the idea of Francie and Josie, two young men with little money or opportunity – but lots of attitude.

Baxter and stage partner Rikki Fulton played out the sketches with incredible success and the concept was later developed by Fulton with a new partner, Jack Milroy.

Incredibly, the act featuring these two ersatz philosophers is still very much alive. Liam Dolan (as Francie) and Johnny Mac (as Josie) are again set to recreate the characters in the outrageous teddy boy suits.

But how can this double act still work today? The late 1950s were framed by a very different set of experiences. What does a Francie and Josie Show have to offer audiences in 2023? “Well, the thing is they are both such strong, lovable characters,” Dolan explains. “Josie is very intelligent while Francie is the daft one and everyone can relate to them.” He grins: “I had a Francie and Josie in my family. And the sketches are just so funny.”

Yet, comedy doesn’t always travel along the timeline. “Well, sometimes it does and audiences certainly love the homage to the period and the characters. So many people have heard the catchphrase ‘Are ye dancing?’ – ‘Are ye asking?’ and they don’t know where it comes from until they see the show.”

The writing of the late Stan Mars was not only redolent of the era; it was so cleverly observed that it stuck to the national psyche. “You can deliver an old gag, but it’s still a clever joke,” says Dolan. “It’s the sort of material that’s not being offered up by anyone else. There are no working men’s clubs or summer seasons or variety shows. And this restriction has really heightened the appeal.”

The resurrection of Dolan and Mac’s Francie and Josie seemed almost destined to happen. The pair were friends at St Joseph’s Academy in Kilmarnock, connected by a love of performance. Dolan encouraged his friend along to the local youth theatre summer school.

“We’d go to all the theatres together,” he rewinds. “We watched the likes of Dean Park and Johnny Beattie.” Coincidentally, both had been brought up by family members to wallow in the wonder of the Francie and Josie double act.

In 1997, the two young performers decided to put on a show to raise funds to take their youth theatre onto the Edinburgh Festival and they wrote to Rikki Fulton for approval to perform a Francie and Josie sketch. “Rikki replied, and I still have the letter, and he said, ‘Yes, and we wish your alter-egos the very best’.”

Years later, Dolan and Mac developed their own entertainment shows, Dolan becoming synonymous with the Pavilion Theatre and Mac working in panto at the King’s and summer season in Great Yarmouth. But they decided to reform their Francie and Josie homage and tour, with the show becoming a massive success at the Glasgow Pavilion Theatre in particular.

“And here we are seven years later with the third instalment of the show.”

How long can it last when a section of the audience heads off to the variety theatre in the sky?

“It seems the demand for the show isn’t going away,” says Dolan. “We can’t believe we’ve been carrying on and reproducing material such as Francie and Josie go to the travel agents, or the Arbroath sketch, and they still work. It’s a bit like when you go to see a classic band you have to hear their greatest hits.”

What Dolan and Mac also bring to the show is an acute understanding of the dynamic between Fulton and Milroy. While Milroy was incredibly easygoing (“He’d meet four guys in the bookies and take them back to his house because he knew Mary was making mince”) Fulton was far less gregarious. “I think Rikki took on the big brother role, he sort of looked out for Jack,” smiles Dolan. “They were like brothers, a bit like me and Johnny.”

Apart from the nostalgia element, the performances of Dolan and Mac sell the show. If this were 1958 it’s odds-on they would themselves be appearing at the Alhambra. “I think it really helps that Johnny and I have our own acts, and audiences don’t get to see us together – except when we become Francie and Josie.”

The Pavilion Theatre has been taken over by Trafalgar Entertainment. But the group is keen on selling this nostalgia show to audiences. “The atmosphere is still electric at the Pavilion,” says Dolan. “And when you feel that you feel the show can run forever.”

Francie and Josie: Pure Nostalgia, The Pavilion Theatre Glasgow, June 3-4