AFTER Bill Naughton’s original radio play – Alfie Elkins And His Little Life, starring one Bill “Compo” Owen incidentally – was aired in January 1962, one listener complained: “Time was when the BBC would not have considered broadcasting anything so revolting”.

Now, however, the flyer for this touring production by London company Blackeyed Theatre says the thoughts and deeds of Sixties’ randy ram Alfie are “suitable for 11 years plus”.

Times change, you might conclude, but maybe not on reflection. Just as Alfie was seen as a selfish symbol of the breakdown of social responsibility, so we are told we are in just such an age now, and didn’t Mrs Thatcher once say there is no such thing as society in the ’Eighties?

The distinguishing feature is that Alfie represented the rebellious shock of the new, a ’Sixties shock later diluted in that pointless Jude Law film remake, but here presented in its raw theatrical form that predates Michael Caine’s Casanova turn.

Victoria Spearing’s very straightforward set is the stuff of old-fashioned pub theatre, but is both practical for a tour and for accommodating the actor-musicians’ band set-up.

The focus falls all the more sharply on Naughton’s rough-diamond dialogue and in particular on the silver yet blunt tongue of Edward Elks’s sharp-suited, shameless London lad. Elks, above left, brings a rhythmic swagger to go with the confessional dagger in his philosophical monologues, and it is this brazen honesty that gives Alfie his street charm. Even now his cocksure candour when addressing the audience can surprise you.

Likewise, the play’s notorious abortion scene is still troubling, even shocking, played out starkly by Elks and Lisa Howard to maximum effect in Adrian McDougall’s upfront production. Howard stands out in a sextet of diverse cameos and her singing is a further plus, while Ben Harrison and Courtney Spence boost the musical and humorous impact, and Gabrielle Meadows is every inch the ’Sixties girl in her trio of roles.

Vigorously performed ’Sixties songs and bursts of percussion add further clout to a period comedy drama that looks a little rough at the edges but still smacks you like an Alfie kiss.

*Alfie, Blackeyed Theatre, Harrogate Theatre, today at 2.30pm and 7.30pm. Box office: 01423 502116.