Review: The Missing Hancocks - Live In Edinburgh! (Show B)

Hancock's Lost Half Hour

Hancock's Lost Half Hour

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WITH his trademark black homburg and hangdog expression, Tony Hancock ruled the airwaves in the 1950s.

* * * * * *

Assembly Rooms, George Street

His TV series Hancock’s Half Hour was one of the most popular programmes on the BBC, as had his radio series been before.

Accompanied by his cast of regulars, which included Kenneth Williams and Sid James, who would later become stalwarts of the Carry On films, he was arguably the biggest star of his day.

Over seven years, 102 episodes of Hancock’s Half Hour were broadcast, but 20 recordings are now missing from the BBC archives, The Missing Hancocks - Live In Edinburgh! brings four of those back to life - there are two shows, A and B, each comprising two episodes.

Working from recently discovered Ray Galton and Alan Simpson scripts, a cast of five, led by Kevin McNally as ‘the lad himself’, present these scripts in the form of a radio show.

The staging is simple. A row of five seats upstage and two vintage microphones down stage.

The first adventure finds Hancock standing for Parliament. You need to be of a certain age or have a good grasp of history to appreciate all the nuances of the piece, references to Bud Flanagan, Jimmy Edwards and Wilfred Pickles are sure to soar over the heads of many, but that doesn’t detract, as the familiar theme and crackly broadcasts of the Light programme set the scene.

McNally plays Hancock with buffoonish aplomb, ad-libbing and connecting with the audience with consummate ease. Close your eyes and you could well be listening to Hancock himself.

McNally is ably supported by Simon Greenall, Susy Kane, Alex Lowe and Robin Sebastian, who turns in a show-stealing performance as Kenneth Williams.

It’s bonkers stuff that’s laugh-out-loud funny and well worth making a trip to 23 Railway Cuttings, East Cheam, for... actually, you’d be advised to go twice to catch shows A and B.

The Missing Hancocks is a fitting tribute to the comic genius of the tragic funnyman, who took his own life in 1968, and one that allows his legacy to live on in a quite unique way.

Until 30 August