Galton and Simpson are, in my humble opinion, an unrivalled writing duo, Hancock’s Half Hour provides some of the most witty and clever, yet basic plots. What you need to accompany such a script de force is the right cast. In Tony Hancock, together with Sid James, Kenneth Williams, John Le Mesurier and Hattie Jacques (among many others who were part of the cast at various times) they had a sterling ensemble who brought their comedy genius alive, superbly.
So, this episode, which has been revived as part of the Lost Sitcoms, had much to live up to. As an audience member from the radio recordings of The Lost Hancocks which were aired on BBC Radio Four (there have been two series of these so far, more to come), I already knew what to expect from Kevin McNally. McNally has been a lifelong fan of Tony Hancock’s and epitomises the lad himself. The television recording has given a fortunate opportunity to watch the fan in action as one of his idols. Comic timing is one of McNally’s many fortes, the ability to play to the audience’s laughs is also notable and it is a rather uncanny impersonation that he pulls off. The brilliance of the leading man, aside, it is very much an ensemble piece, with comedy star Katy Wix playing a believable Hattie Jacques, she managed to combine Jacques’ tongue in cheek gestures and facial expressions with her infamous clipped tones. “What sort of monster is he?” is spoken just like Jacques herself. Kevin Eldon made a fine John Le Mesurier, while popular impressionist, John Culshaw took on the role of Sid James and most successfully, too. When one considers the talent of Robin Sebastian who plays Kenneth Williams, knowing where to start is nigh on impossible. I had prior knowledge of his ability to impersonate WIliams, yet he still astounded me, I know of nobody else who can match him in this particular skill! His scenes with McNally are the highlight of the episode, they would make a formidable comedy double act.
The story line, which involved Hancock’s next door neighbour, was the perfect choice for the first (of many, I hope) episode to be televised. Hancock is curtain twitching, obsessively, in order to ascertain what his next door neighbour is up to in his back garden. Hancock’s observations lead him up the garden path to conclude that the man he is watching like a hawk is, of course, a murderer. Hilarious consequences ensue when he visits his estate agent (Sid James… played by John Culshaw), and also meets the estate agent’s assistant, Kenneth Williams. Hattie and John are in hot pursuit, of course, which makes for a ‘sitcom reunion’ like no other! When Williams arrives at Hancock’s house, later on as a Policeman this time, there was not a dry eye in my house.
To summarise, this has been one of the best possible come backs, I would like to see more of H-H-H-Hancock’s Half Hour, please!
Ps: Late filing of this review is due to technical difficulty and not because I’m a slow writer…
Photo Credit: BBC