ON Saturday, York actor Martin Barrass begins a new career as a radio presenter.

The perennial punch-bag and stooge to Berwick Kaler’s dowager dame at York Theatre Royal is to host his own show on BBC Radio York over the next eight weekends, coinciding with his 29th season in the pantomime.

The pre-recorded weekly programme was the idea of presenter, arts correspondent and musical actor Neil Foster, as Martin explains.

“I’ve known Neil for years. I remember him as a little lad in shorts, when his sister was in the panto, and his family regularly came to the show with his mum, Doreen, writing these fantastic poems about all the characters, which were always fantastic for me or Berwick to read out.

“Anyway, we met up and he said, ‘You’ve got the gift of the gab and you should do a show.”

It was music to Martin’s ears. “Well, I have got a big gob and my phone nearly melts because I talk for so long,” he says. “And I’ve always loved radio, ever since I used to do my own version of The Goons.”

Martin recorded a pilot programme earlier this year, a dummy run for which Neil gave him the advice: “Just be you. Talk about anything that has amused you; anything that you’ve been getting up to,” he recalls. “So it’s going to be things like telling stories of disastrous auditions or things that have happened during performances or that week.”

Barrass’s mix of music, banter, comedy news items and relaxed interviews with guests from the showbiz world will fill the noon to 2pm Saturday slot vacated by Billy Pearce, star turn of the Bradford Alhambra pantomime.

“It’s a great time of day to be on the radio,” says Martin. “It’s the heart of the day, just before the sports coverage, and you can even cook your lunch over it. A Saturday lunchtime show should be upbeat; you don’t have to dig deep and you won’t.”

Among this weekend’s guests on “Barrass’s Saturday Bash” will be teenage York variety act, actor and magician Josh Benson and stars of the Rowntree Players and Scarborough Spa Theatre pantomimes.

Looking ahead, “I’m determined to get Berwick on one of the shows, but I’ll have to nail everything down,” says Martin. “China shop and bull come to mind.”