JOHNNY McKnight was bitten by the idea of writing a vampire story from the moment the idea was suggested.

And how could he not be? Johnny is one of Scotland’s top comedy writers, evidenced in plays such as Wendy Hoose and Smalltown.

And it made perfect sense to turn his deliciously dark comic attention to a Halloween-time modern-day neck biter tale.

The Gorbals Vampire take is a true story of the events of September 1954 when playgrounds across the Gorbals became alive with talk of the undead.

A vampire was said to be on the loose, a man with iron teeth and ready to draw blood. The vampire was also a practising cannibal, the kids heard, who had “devoured” two little local brothers.

But the local children didn’t immediately lock their doors and hold onto their mammies apron in abject fear.

Hundreds of children aged four to 14 gathered at the Southern Necropolis armed to the teeth and ready to slay the vampire, over a period of three nights.

Johnny admits it was a story he couldn’t resist telling it.

“I was contacted at the beginning of the year to see if I would be interested in this community project,” he says of the Citizens’ Theatre show.

“I did some research and found it was totally my cup of tea. I love the idea of a witch hunt. I love the idea that children’s imagination can run rife to the extent that some people were too scared to leave their house.

“But I also love the idea this group of weans could hear of a vampire in the Gorbals and say ‘Let’s go batter it!”

He adds, grinning; “If it were me though and I heard of a vampire on the loose I’d be in the hoose. I was a sensitive wee soul. There’s no way I’d have gone out with my chib.”

But the Gorbals schoolchildren did, their imagination possibly fuelled by the American horror comics which were in vogue, or, it’s suggested some religious teachings.

To add to the dark mix, the Necropolis provided the perfect stage for a vampire story to take root, with the noise and light from the nearby ironworks casting spooky shadows across the graves in which some 250,000 Glaswegians had been laid to rest.

“These were days before Facebook,” says Johnny, “but it’s incredible how a story can spread.

“I remember my local newspaper published a picture of a sex offender. But they showed the wrong person and within hours his windows were smashed in.

“When something like this happens it’s like The Crucible (Arthur Miller’s tale of witch hunting in 17th century Salem). Word can spread like wildfire.”

He adds, laughing; “It still happens. I’ve done shows where something happened on stage and gone out to another theatre bar that same day and being told what had happened.

“You do a f***t in Glasgow and by the time it reaches the Traverse in Edinburgh it’s an earthquake.”

The Gorbals Vampire story features a cast of sixty. How difficult was it write for that many people?

“I did the research and then put it to one side and came up with a brand new story (which incorporates the vampire tale.)

“As my mammy would say, ‘Don’t spoil a good story with the truth. And I didn’t want to write about someone else’s version of the Vampire story.

“And what you do is have loads of different parts so you get the sense this is the community talking, and a story that builds to this gathering at the end.”

The voices come from characters Johnny knew at school, he reveals, grinning.

“But there are also a couple of main characters whose journey we follow throughout, in the week leading up to the events in the Necropolis, from home to school and then to the graveyard.”

Johnny McKnight’s stories seldom arrive at the theatre door without pathos and emotion attached.

This tale, directed by Guy Holland, will be no different.

“At the heart of it is a really delicate wee story, being the two brothers who went missing. It’s also about what it means to be brothers.”

Johnny maintains this is one his plays he’s had most fun with.

“Some plays are a nightmare to work on but this wasn’t one of them. I’ve been able to write about a vampire at Halloween.”

He adds, grinning; “My favourite programme in all the world is Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, and I wanted to get into all of that.

“This was my chance and I’ve loved it.”

Hang on. Didn’t he already feature a vampire in his comedy horror play, Smalltown?

“Weirdly enough, when I first came up with the idea for Smalltown I actually thought of making the lassie in the play a vampire.

“Then when I realised she worked in a shop I thought ‘The glaikit Saturday lassie is clearly a zombie.’

“But now I’ve had the chance to take on a vampire.”

What next, Johnny? Which creature from the darkness have you yet to bring to life which can whip up a little collective comedy hysteria?

“Maybe a mummy,” he says, grinning. “Or Frankenstein.”

The writer’s voice trails off and his voice becomes excited.

“That’s just given me an idea. . . .”

• The Gorbals Vampire, The Citizens’ Theatre, tonight. (Saturday.)