John brings ‘lost’ Tony Hancock magic back to life

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A LINCOLNSHIRE theatre company is bringing a unique production based on ‘lost’ episodes of the work of comic genius Tony Hancock, to Grantham.

John Hewer has been given exclusive permission by Hancock’s Half Hour writers Ray Galton and Alan Simpson to adapt and perform two episodes first broadcast in the 1950s.

The series broke new ground and established Hancock’s reputation as a comic genuis, but the recordings are missing from the BBC archives.

The two episodes, A Winter’s Tale and The Italian Maid, will be performed by Hambledon Productions at The Guildhall, Grantham, on Saturday, September 15.

John – one half of Hambledon Productions with sister Rachael – is excited about the Hancock show, which follows a highly successful production of STOP! ... You’re Killing Me, at the Soho Theatre in April.

John says of the Hancock show: “This is a huge event, and we are proud to have been entrusted with this unique opportunity, as this will mark the first time these scripts have been performed and heard since their original transmissions.”

The writer told the Journal: “I am a big Hancock fan, and as a writer, I am heavily influenced by the work of Ray and Alan, famous also for Steptoe and Son.

“We knew of the BBC sacreligious treatment of the original recordings, now missing-believed-wiped, but I knew the scripts survived with the writers. It was then a case of expressing an interest in reproducing them, and it grew from there.

“Ray and Alan both read examples of my work and were impressed, and so we were given permission and a special license (and an awful lot of trust!) to adapt them for our tour.

“The writers, together with Tony Hancock himself, created what we now recognise as the modern sitcom.

“As a series, Hancock’s Half Hour epitomises not only vintage comedy, but a timeless, rich quality that remains thoroughly entertaining.

“Brought to life by a stellar cast (which we are also recreating with actors tackling the roles made famous by Bill Kerr, Sidney James, Andree Melly and Kenneth Williams), it’s as familiar and hilarious now as it was groundbreaking in the 1950’s.

“This is a show for any fans of British comedy, young and old. It is a trip down memory lane for people who remember the original series, but most especially, this is a faithful reproduction of two episodes being performed for the first time for nearly 60 years.

“We’ve changed very little, as the scripts remain remarkably funny.”

The company will also be performing the show in Grimsby - where it is based - Lincoln, Gainsborough, Bawtry, Louth and Worksop.

The Grantham show is at 7.30pm and tickets are £11 (£9.50) available from the box office.