HANCOCK'S Half Hour has had an impact rather longer than for half an hour.

No Warholian 15 minutes of fame for Tony Hancock, whose first episode lit up the airwaves of the BBC Light Programme in 1954, when performing alongside Sid James, Hattie Jacques and Kenneth Williams.

Sixty-five years later, Ray Galton and Alan Simpson's radio comedy series is being transferred to the stage for the first time by Apollo Theatre Company, whose tour of three vintage episodes brings the lugubrious Hancockian world of 23 Railway Cuttings, East Cheam, to Harrogate Theatre tonight and tomorrowe and the Grand Opera House, York, on Friday.

This will be Apollo's third such show, after re-creating episodes from fellow beloved radio comedies The Goon Show and Round The Horne.

Producer and director Tim Astley says: "Hancock’s Half Hour was one of the greatest comedy shows of all time and it's truly an honour to be able to bring it to the stage. We're so used to sitcoms as a part of the comedy landscape these days that it's hard to imagine a time without them and to appreciate just how ground-breaking the show was when it came along in 1954.

"Tony Hancock’s genius ‘put-upon’ persona had such an influence on so many great comedy characters from Basil Fawlty to David Brent and it cannot be underestimated quite how much he helped shape comedy as we know it today.

"Being a radio comedy show, these characters and their world largely exist in people’s imaginations and this show, which recreates the BBC recording studio of the 1950s, gives audiences a chance to see them brought to life like never before and will create a unique experience for fans both old and new."

Playing "the lad himself" alongside Colin Elmer's Kenneth Williams – who reprises his role from Round The Horne – will be James Hurn, a master mimic of many voices, as first heard on Dead Ringers.

This is not 44-year-old impressionist James's first half hour as Hancock. "Tim Astley discovered some of my work on YouTube when I was doing my own one-man show Hancock And Co, which I started off in 2016," he says.

"I did a week's run in London at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre, a pub converted into a theatre in Kentish Town, when Neil Pearson, the producer of BBC Radio 4's The Missing Hancocks, came along, and so did [impressionist] Jon Colshaw, who I'd worked with on Dead Ringers, and I got really good feedback off both of them."

James had contacted Tessa Le Bars, Alan Simpson's wife (and now widow), asking for the rights to perform three episodes, including Sunday Afternoon At Home, and then sought permission to write new episodes too. "Galton and Simpson looked at them and said 'OK', as it was in their style, which delighted me, but sadly they have both died since then," he says.

It was then that Tim Astley contacted James. "He said he was thinking of doing Hancock's Half Hour with a cast of six and would I like to play Hancock? Of course I said 'Yeah, I'd love to do that'!"

James recalls first encountering Hancock's Half Hour when he was 12 or 13. "I got into it because my parents were listening to the episodes and they were still showing his shows on TV," he says.

"I was very familiar with Sid James and Kenneth Williams from the Carry On films and that's when I started doing their voices. My father also really loved Steptoe & Son, which I hadn't realised was written by the same guys [Galton and Simpson], but you can see the same comic style, concentrating on relationships, with very realistic writing mixed with comical moments and situations."

What drew him to Hancock's hang-dog humour at the age of 12? "I think I'm quite an old soul at heart. As a younger child, I used to love lots of things in black and white: Laurel & Hardy, Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton and Norman Wisdom, and it was bumping into things and falling over that I first found funny. Then, as you get older, you start enjoying the jokes," he says.

"As a teenager, I liked Blackadder and The Young Ones, where the comedy was louder, but then I was drawn to older comedy that didn't require a shock factor, like Hancock.

"I like how he represents everyone or an everyman character, and growing up in a fairly poor area as I did, when I saw where he was living in his show, and the emphasis on that room, I felt a connection."

Now he is performing in three diverse Hancock's Half Hour episodes: Hancock In The Police, Americans Hit Town and The Wild Man Of The Wood, with foley artist sound effects and all. "The fact that it's still funny is the reason why it still survives. It needs parents like mine to keep introducing Hancock to the next generation and I can see that continuing to happen," says James.

As for the art of impersonating Hancock's voice and put-upon demeanour, he says: "I practised a lot, because people thought he was one of those voices that couldn't be impersonated, but a lot of it is about tempo and delivery. Like a song, you have to find the right note.

"I've always had the ability to pull a face even though I may look nothing like someone until I do that. I imagine how they look, shape my facial muscles into the characteristics, and then miraculously I do look like them!"

Apollo Theatre Company in Hancock's Half Hour, Harrogate Theatre, March 13 and 14, 7.30pm; Grand Opera House, York, March 15, 7.30pm. Box office: Harrogate, 01423 502116 or at harrogatetheatre.co.uk; York, 0844 871 3024 or atgtickets.com/york