Review: Hancock's Half Hour, From studio to stage − 'stone me', 'it's the lad himself'!

PUBLISHED: 15:54 20 February 2019 | UPDATED: 15:56 20 February 2019

Tony Hancock first broadcasted Hancock’s Half Hour in 1954. Picture: Jasmine Griffiths

Tony Hancock first broadcasted Hancock's Half Hour in 1954. Picture: Jasmine Griffiths

Archant

It would be absolutely criminal if the hilarious comedy scripts of Galton and Simpson never saw the light of day again after their initial airing in the 1950s, so I was pleased to see the grumpy ramblings they wrote with well-known comedian Tony Hancock are being brought to a whole new audience, by way of a touring stage show.

The flyer for the touring show.The flyer for the touring show.

Cult BBC radio classic Hancock’s Half Hour has been re-imagined as a theatrical production, 64 years on, by radio show fanatic Tim Astley and is playing at Weston-super-Mare’s Blakehay Theatre until tomorrow night (Thursday).

Hancock’s Half Hour starred self-proclaimed ‘the lad himself’ Tony Hancock, who wrote the part as an exaggerated version of himself, displaying pretentious, pompous, downtrodden and gullible characteristics.

Anthony Aloysius St John Hancock, was portrayed as a snob living beyond his means in the South London railway cutting of East Cheam.

During its five-year radio run, Hancock’s Half Hour, which also featured Carry On actors Sid James, Kenneth Williams and Hattie Jacques, as well as the less well-known Australian Bill Kerr, gained a devoted following which led to a television adaptation in 1960.

Astley adapted the radio show after previous successful forays into the genre when he turned Round The Horne and The Goon Show into theatre productions.

Hancock’s Half Hour stars Dead Ringers impressionist James Hern as Hancock, Round The Horne’s Colin Elmer playing Williams, Ben Craze as James, Laura Crowhurst as Jacques, Tom Capper as Kerr and Clive Greenwood as the radio announcer and sound-effects artist.

Three half-hour scripts are acted out just as the actors would have recorded them in the radio studio, in front of a live audience, complete with bloopers and interaction with the crowd, encouraging laughter to further enhance the broadcast.

The actors were absolutely flawless and completely captivating with how uncanny their voices are to the original cast. If you closed your eyes and just listened I would challenge anyone to be able to tell the difference between it and the original recording.

I had not been to one of these radio-turned-stage shows before and I wondered how the tv programme I watched on repeat would transfer to a stage show. But happily my dad and I thoroughly enjoyed watching these timeless classics once again brought to life.

As far as I could tell the original scripts were faithfully stuck to and considering the writers also wrote for comedy greats such as Eric Sykes, Frankie Howerd and Les Dawson, there is no need to mess with them at all.

What really made my evening was an unexpected re-enactment of Hancock’s most famous TV sketch, The Blood Donor, which most fans will be able to quote word-for-word, which was received with rapturous applause and immense fondness from the crowd.

If you love comedy and your theatre stripped back to basics, with just the amazing acting talent and great scripts to recommend it, then ‘stone me’, you should see this, even if you have never seen or heard the original shows.

Performances of Hancock’s Half Hour are at 7.30pm this evening (Wednesday) and tomorrow (Thursday) at 2.30pm and 7.30pm. Tickets, priced £16.50, are available from www.ticketsource.co.uk/event/270102

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