Poet, performer, pop star and playwright Roger McGough is happy to add new skills to his portfolio of talents in his seventies.

The latest incarnation of the Renaissance Man of Liverpool is as an adaptor of the 17th century comedies of the French dramatist Moliere.

In 2008, he tackled Tartuffe, Moliere’s biting attack on religious hypocrisy, and now McGough has turned his attention to The Hypochondriac, wherein Moliere ridicules the pretensions of the medical profession.

On Tuesday, McGough’s medicine for laughter arrives at York Theatre Royal in a touring co-production by English Touring Theatre and the Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse.

For all his gifts, McGough invariably doubts his own credentials when given a new challenge. “I’m always inclined to say no at first,” he says.

Such was his response when Gemma Bodinetz, the Everyman and Playhouse artistic director, rang him with an intriguing offer.

“Gemma said that she’d like me to do something for Liverpool’s impending Year of Culture and that she was thinking of directing a production of Tartuffe and did I know the play?

“Initially, I dismissed the idea. I was rather hoping that she might be interested in one of my own plays that hadn’t seen the light of day for some time and so I sent her a copy of Summer With Monika. But Gemma ignored all this and asked me again if I were interested in adapting Tartuffe.”

McGough had read French at university. “So I had come across Moliere without really knowing his work. I agreed to take several existing versions of the play with me when I went on a Saga cruise as a kind of writer in captivity,” he says.

“I couldn’t think of an excuse not to do it and since I’d only be required to do two hour-long shows in the two weeks of the cruise, I knew that I’d have time on my hands. So I gradually got into the task.”

McGough downplays his own dramatic skills. “I’ve never felt that I’ve really cracked the business of writing plays,” he says. “Everyone says witty things in my work for the stage and so all the characters tend to sound the same.”

He found Moliere a very congenial writing partner, however.

“He supplied the plot and the cast of characters and as I started to work on the version, I surprised myself by how quick I was in coming up with the lines,” he says.

Tartuffe became one of the biggest successes of the City of Culture theatre programme. Not surprisingly, Bodinetz was keen to have another sip of the blend of Moliere and McGough, but which play was it to be?

“I looked at The School For Wives and at The Hypochondriac, which I felt at first was too scatalogical for me. However, once again it was time for the Saga cruise and once again I took a number of previous versions of a Moliere play with me,” McGough recalls.

“Again, I was initially a bit dubious. In the original, there are a number of interludes which were clearly designed to please the King: the story would mark time while the speciality acts came on and did their stuff. I wondered how I could get round this problem. I knew that I’d eventually have to be brave and cut all this extraneous material.”

Once again, once McGough had started, it came very easily.

“When I eventually looked at the original version, I saw immediately that Moliere hadn’t written it in verse. Had I known this, I’d have probably stuck to prose as well. But this time around I was more sure of myself and I felt able to add a few jokes of my own. And if Moliere had brought the house down when the play was first performed in 1673, then I wanted to do the same for him in 2009.”

• The Hypochondriac, York Theatre Royal, October 27 to 31, 7.30pm plus 2pm matinee on Thursday and 2.30pm next Saturday. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk