City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

The Missing Hancocks (Show B), Assembly Rooms, Review

By Kay Smith - Posted on 22 August 2015

Missing Hancocks
Show details
Assembly Rooms
Stone Me Productions & Something for the Weekend
Running time: 
Neil Pearson (director), Ray Galton and Alan Simpson (writers)
Kevin McNally (Tony Hancock), Robin Sebastian (Kenneth Williams), Simon Greenall (Sid James), Susy Kane, Alex Lowe.

When actor and antiquarian book dealer Neil Pearson unearthed the 20 recordings missing from an archive of 102 episodes of the Hancock Half Hour Radio shows originally broadcast 60 years ago he had found a gold mine of the very best of vintage comedy.

Five of the episodes were aired on BBC Radio 4 last Autumn. Now four more are being performed - two each in two shows - on stage at the Fringe as well as being recorded for radio transmission later this year.

I saw Prime Minister Hancock in which "Anthony" stands as a parliamentary candidate simultaneously for all the major parties. Such profligacy at least had the advantage of providing enough rosettes to fill the moth eaten holes in the lapels of his suit jacket. A handy twist in the tale allows him to catch measles from a baby he kisses whilst canvassing which then leads to febrile dreams about not only winning the election but becoming Prime Minster - a wonderful opportunity to scrap all these pesky taxes and to raise money through holding dances in the House of Parliament.

In Three Sons, Hancock plays a 93-year old man who is taking an awful lot longer to die that his three useless sons whose characters take us onto a doomed minesweeper, into doctor death's surgery and into gangster land.

The actors stand and move around on stage in front of ancient BBC microphones, scripts in hand. Yet at the same time there is an easy engagement with the live theatre audience. It is told firmly to switch off mobile phones because they were not invented in 1956. Yet it could be used as a foil for script refreshments - a joke which went down a bomb in 1951 only to be met with a puzzled silence in 2015 was to be cut, says Hancock. At the same time there was a reference to the now late Ted Heath much in the news today.

Kevin McNally is well cast in the lead role catching the characteristic timbre of the voice of the great comic himself. Robin Sebastian is a rubber legged and pouting Kenneth Williams providing a saucy foil to Hancock who takes every opportunity to put him down. This was supposed to be the Hancock Half Hour after all - not the Kenneth Williams forty five minutes, he jibed. Hat cheekily tilted Simon Greener plays cockney Sid James.

The jokes tumble over each other in rapid fire succession providing not only a fitting tribute to the original scripts and performers but also as a challenge to contemporary comedians that they should dare to be so good.

Til 30th August, 4.15pm.