The Missing Hancocks: Live in Edinburgh
A sense of genuine fun heightens the comedy history being played out before your eyes
This article is from 2015.
For those not in the know, Hancock's Half Hour was a BBC classic (on both radio and TV) in the late 50s and early 60s. Most episodes are now available on Radio 4 Extra, but like many great BBC productions, a chunk of them went missing. When former Drop the Dead Donkey star and now antiquarian book dealer Neil Pearson acquired the papers of a freelance comedy writer, he stumbled across 20 scripts from the lost recordings. Pearson went on to record five of them for radio with Kevin McNally reviving Hancock.
Here, in this transfer to the stage, there are four episodes in total performed across two days. The episodes are staged in the traditional way of live radio recordings with a lone mic in centre of the stage as the actors bob up and down reading from the script. It could easily be dull to watch but there are plenty visual shenanigans and mugging to the crowd, particularly from Robin Sebastian who shines as Kenneth Williams.
You can't fault the Galton and Simpson scripts, so I'm not even going to try. The comedy is still as fresh as it was back then, and it's a testament to the writing that some of the audience weren't even alive when they first aired. Pearson only tweaked one line in the adaptation but there are a fair few actor asides to add extra freshness.
It's a tricky task playing an actor playing a role but they all seem to nail it. McNally is comfortingly convincing as the eternally thwarted Hancock, particularly if you momentarily close your eyes to concentrate on the voice. To add an extra layer to the humour there's some endearing corpsing while a forgotten prop results in good-natured teasing between players providing a sense of fun to the whole project.
Please note there are two shows. 'The Winter Holiday' and 'New Year Resolutions' form Show A and run on even-numbered days, while Show B – 'Prime Minister Hancock' and 'The Three Sons' – runs on odd-numbered days.
Assembly Rooms, 0844 693 3008, until 30 Aug (not 17), 4.15pm, £16 (£13).