Assembly Rooms Music Hall, George Street, Edinburgh
There was no way I was going to miss this little treat. As a Hancock fan from way back, this was right up my street – four episodes of Hancock’s Half Hour, lost from the archives and now lovingly recreated for the Edinburgh Festival, two shows each featuring two episodes. OK, so I only had time to slot in Show A, (The Winter Holiday and New Year Resolutions) but boy am I glad I did. It only reaffirms for me that Hancock teamed with Galton and Simpson was the very definition of comedy gold.
The shows are recreated exactly as they would have been on the BBC in the 1950s. The actors stand around a couple of mics with their scripts and they read them out, complete with sound effects and musical interludes. Kevin MacNally doesn’t so much play Hancock as inhabit the very bones of him. It’s all there; the lugubrious expressions, the perfect timing and that world-weary voice. Close your eyes and you’re right back there in your parents’ living room, listening to the original shows. Likewise, Robin Sebastian’s embodiment of Kenneth Williams is absolutely spot on, as he flounces on and steals the show, as he always did, right from under Hancock’s nose.
I won’t pretend that this is for everyone. There are plenty of people who simply don’t ‘get’ Hancock, who can’t see anything remotely funny in his work and for them, this would doubtless be akin to some kind of aural torture. But the packed seats of the Assembly Music Hall testify to the fact that there’s a lot of fans out there who are delighted to have the opportunity to enjoy these vintage episodes once again. Priceless.