I recall my Dad putting on a record of Tony Hancock’s “Radio Ham,” and consequently falling on the floor with laughter. At the time his character-driven comedy felt lost in time, and non-too funny to my adolescent mind, scoped on the contemporary likes of Rick Mayall and Ade Edmondson, but like fine wine, it’s something I’ve come to appreciate with age.
In fact, character-driven comedy is the backbone of modern British humour, look at the success of Ricky Gervais, Sacha Baron Cohen, Katherine Tate and the Little Britain team. Steve Cogan quoted his alter-ego Alan Partridge “comes from a lineage stretching back to Tony Hancock.” Today the Tony Hancock Appreciation Society heralds a new era of followers, one being one-man-show James Hurn, who is back by popular demand at the Wharf Theatre Devizes tomorrow night.
So, If you’re looking for something different to do in Devizes this weekend, race down to the Library Hub in the morning, pick up a ticket online (here: £12.50 / £10.50 + booking fee, or ring 03336 663 366.) For on his second visit to the Wharf, James will be performing a brand-new programme, including one ‘lost’ episode of Hancock’s Half Hour and two episodes he has written himself in the same style as original writers Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, with James voicing the entire cast.
The new show is performed in the style of a radio performance in front of a live audience, bringing to life the classic days of radio comedy. Tom Dommett, editor of the Tony Hancock Appreciation Society stated, “If anyone is out there wondering; does it work, one man doing the whole cast? Are the new scripts up to scratch? Is it like the real thing? The answers are; yes, yes and yes!”
Tony Hancock’s melancholic bravura was strictly British-styled, after an unsuccessful movie in the States, and due to artistic differences, Hancock split with writers Galton and Simpson in the mid-sixties. Maybe the dejected soul of his character was none too far from the real man; Hancock committed suicide by overdose, in 1968. One of his suicide notes stated, “Things just seemed to go too wrong too many times.”
For the younger me, watching my pops rolling around the floor in laughter filled me with confusion, for he’d tell me, just like Tommy Cooper, Tony Hancock had one of those faces which didn’t have to say anything, just one look and you laughed. Why then, I pondered, are you giggling to a record, but I guess the lesser visual generation my Dad belonged to could picture his face from the sounds alone; ah, video killed the radio star.
I’ve added a picture of James as Hancock here, and I think his expression alone confirms this will be one funny evening. James Hurn, keen to film his Hancock and Co scripts, has launched a crowd funding page to engage the project, explaining, “This production will have myself playing all the roles. To achieve this successfully I will require a very professional team with the right equipment. For example a make-up artist that specialises in prosthetics, camera crew, sound, lighting etc.”
“I am very passionate about this project because it has always been an ambition of mine to create more visual content, where the original team finished. As a fan of Hancock’s half hour and many other sitcoms of the time, I have always felt it a great shame that the creators were not able to continue their work.” For one night only, this comes highly recommended.