by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson adapted by John Hewer.

White Bear Theatre 139 Kennington Park Road SE11 4DJ To 5 January 2013.
Runs 1hr 30min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 30 December.

Hardly matches the thing itself.
Wally Stott’s signature tune got it bang-on. His question-mark of a tuba phrase followed by the two-note bounce of an engine refusing to kick into life caught Tony Hancock’s comic persona, which shaped Ray Galton and Alan Simpson’s scripts for his 30-minute shows on, first, radio then TV. Hancock’s famous weekly intrusion into the announcer’s confident manner with a spluttered “H-H-Hancock’s Half Hour” introduced more comic pretensions undercut by fear of life as it invaded the shabby suburbia of Railway Cuttings, East Cheam.

Sometimes he visited places – famously, a blood-donor session – but Hancock’s home life predominated, invaded by regulars visitors, gauche Ozzie Bill Kerr, sympathetically attractive Andrée Melly (or the more assertive Hattie Jacques, also partner in comedy to long-running half-hour sitcomer Eric Sykes) and, notably, pock-marked cockney chancer Sid James.

Michael Kingsbury’s White Bear Theatre established a role in reviving mid-century radio comedy with the Goons and Kenneth Horne (Horne’s sidekick Kenneth Williams turns up here too). Round the Horne was particularly successful, combining the parochial period humour redolent of the bored suburban Sunday lunches it helped enliven in the sixties with a double fascination: the exact recreation of a studio broadcast and convincing physical plus, supremely, vocal recreations of the originals.

Jonathan Rigby, the White Bear’s excellent Kenneth Horne, now directs these Hancock rediscoveries. After a radio episode recreating a BBC studio, the second episode moves to the realism of a TV episode, with no recording paraphernalia. But missing from both episodes is the character likeness of voice and feature. John Hewer captures Hancock’s facial expression and vocal manner in a number of instances, and Simon Weeds finds something of Bill Kerr’s brash optimism. But it is only momentary, and there’s no real similarity of appearance.

As for Amy Holmes’ Andrée Melly, it might be accurate – it’s always Jacques I think of as the woman around (you could hardly say “in”) Hancock’s life. But Luke Adamson has nothing of Sid James’ plausible conman confidence, reducing the comedy as Sid cheerfully tricks Hancock out of all his holiday money. Nice try, but it hardly recreates the real thing.

Sidney James: Luke Adamson.
Sound Effects Technician: Jane Crawshaw.
Kenneth Williams: Christian Darwood.
Tony Hancock: John Hewer.
Andrée Melly/Maria Landi: Amy Holmes.
Bill Kerr/John Le Mesurier: Simon Weeds.

Director: Jonathan Rigby.

2013-01-20 23:28:04

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