Lost Sitcoms: Hancock’s Half Hour ~ BBC Four

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.

Programme Name: Lost Sitcoms - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. 2) - Picture Shows:  Tony Hancock (KEVIN MCNALLY) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Alan Peebles

 

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

 

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Spotlight On… Robin Sebastian

August’s BONUS Spotlight On…

*** Robin Sebastian ***

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Can you tell us when you realised you could impersonate Kenneth Williams so accurately and if you were a particular fan of the gentleman, himself?

Well I was working as a wine waiter at a private party in London and I was being as gregarious as I could, asking people “if they’d like another bottle up their end” that sort of thing, but I found that the voice I was using was naturally the king of innuendo Kenneth Williams. I had always enjoyed his performances and had owned a copy of Rambling Syd Rumpo since I was 11. At that party was the actor Nigel Lindsay who was doing the London Cuckolds at the National directed by Terry Johnson. Nigel told me that Terry was desperately trying to find a Kenneth Williams for his new play Carry on Camping Emmanuelle and Dick and that I should apply. I was too late as he had already got the excellent Adam Godley instead. It planted the idea in my head and a few years later I landed the role in Round the Horne revisited. Kenneth Williams has been my saving grace.

Did you envisage that your career would involve portraying Mr Williams so frequently?

Not at first, but I would happily play Kenneth in every show; from Shakespeare to Brecht!

Are you a fan of the ‘Carry On’ films and which is your favourite?

Naturally I have an inclination towards the Carry Ons. My favourite being Carry On Screaming! I did land the role of Sir Desmond Uppingham Knightly in Carry on London, but unfortunately Peter Rogers died and the funding was pulled. Boo hoo!

Apart from the man you’re so famous for impersonating, which role has been your best loved to date?

Well I have been in two productions of The importance of being Earnest playing Algernon Moncrieff who is the wittiest character on the stage. I also enjoyed playing Carmen Ghia in The Producers playing opposite Peter Kay. Lots of laughs and masses of ad libs!

Are there are any particular roles you would like to take in the future or shows that you have an ambition to appear in?

I have no ambitions to play a particular role…. Except James Bond of course, but somehow I don’t think that’s going to happen. I would however like to try stand up as me!

Please tell our readers about ‘The Missing Hancocks’ and what they can expect from its appearance at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival. 

These are comedy gold! We are performing four lost recordings : Prime Minister Hancock, The Winter Holiday, The Three Sons and New Year’s Resolutions. We play two episodes per show. So if you’ve enjoyed one show you can come back the next day and see two different episodes. The cast are Stella with Kevin McNally as Hancock, Simon Meerkat Greenall as Sid James, the hilarious Alex Lowe as Bill Kerr, Susy Kane brilliantly captures Andree Melly and Me messing about as Kenneth Williams! It’s quick fire humour at its best with plenty of added banter!

Any advice for budding actors?

Seriously think about doing a plumbing diploma….. As back up!

Favourite Things (quick-fire questions):

What are your favourite things, if you could only name three in total?

My wife, champagne and dressing up!

Favourite theatre?

Bath Theatre Royal. It is perfectly built and perfectly run.

Favourite co-star?

I have had many from David Mitchell to Rob Webb, Peter Kay, Russia Abbott, Jonathan Rigby, Joe Pasquale, Jenny Seagrove, Roy Marsden and the lovely Sara Crowe. They have all been joyous to work and play with.

Favourite song?

I love music, but my two favourites are Oli Girizo by the Greek band Marsheaux and sprawl two by Arcade Fire. Two very catchy tunes!

Favourite childhood memory?

I have so many. As I was brought up in the beautiful Surrey Countryside in a very loving family. It has to be running through the sprinkler in the garden in the hot summer of 1976.

Favourite colour?

Blue

The Missing Hancocks is at Edinburgh Fringe Festival and tickets can be purchased here: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/missing-hancocks-live-in-edinburgh-show-a

and here: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on#q=%22The%20Missing%20Hancocks%3A%20Live%20in%20Edinburgh!%20(Show%20B)%22

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