Hancock's Last Half Hour (4 stars)

This article is from 2014

*4 Hancock's Last Half Hou

Touching deathbed biopic of comedy genius Tony Hancock, staged at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

When Tony Hancock relocated to Australia in 1968, it was to be where he spent his final days. Heathcote Williams' play examines these last moments, with Pip Utton reviving the title character.

In a hotel bedroom littered with discarded newspapers and vodka bottles, the alcoholic Hancock has passed out in his clothes. He struggles to get up from the filthy bed, and tentatively rises, sharing his lemon-bitter monologue with the room. His brand of post-vaudeville comedy is dying, and so is he. Although he bears only a slight resemblance to Hancock, Utton's deeply expressive and capricious features and voice are perfect. Even his grey cardigan seems stained with sadness.

Past and present co-exist in Williams' wonderfully wise script, a study in self-deprecation and indiscretion, where Hancock's erstwhile scriptwriters Galton and Simpson get a kicking, and Sid James is cacklingly dismissed as 'John Wayne with syphilis'. Comedy itself is deconstructed, with Freud's thoughts on humour as release of repression discussed. If only Hancock could feel that release in himself.

With simple last words written to his mother before swallowing down the pills and booze in this quietly devastating play, Hancock's inner demons provide the final, awful punchline.

Assembly Rooms, 0844 693 3008, until Aug 10, noon, £9–£10 (£8).

Hancock’s Last Half Hour

  • 4 stars
  • Written by: Heathcote Williams

A performance based on the tragic life and career of comedian, Tony Hancock.