Review: Hancock's Half Hour, Apollo Theatre Company, Grand Opera House, York, March 15

AFTER Apollo Theatre Company's Round The Horne and David Benson and Jack Lane's Dad's Army Radio Hour, here was another chance to enjoy one of radio's golden yesterdays.

Hancock's Half Hour, the show where the comedy baton was handed on from gags to sitcom, was a ground-breaking Light Programme hit, penned by the young, agile, sometimes surrealist minds of Ray Galton and Alan Simpson for "The Lad Himself", the lugubrious, put-upon, would-be modern man of the world Tony Hancock.

Here Apollo Theatre Company re-created the radio studio recordings of three episodes, albeit with Hancock and co in attire that evoked the later television series, as Clive Greenwood's BBC announcer (and sound effects foley artist to boot) introduced 1957's Hancock In The Police, 1958's The Americans Hit Town and 1956's The Wild Man Of the Woods,

Ostensibly set at 23 Railway Cuttings, East Cheam, Hancock's flights of fancy took him to police duties on the beat; being in a bomber and struggling with getting back to nature in the woods.

Radio, as a format, opened up the possibilities of applying imagination to comedic effect, and there was gentle pleasure in seeing James Hurn's Hancock, Tom Capper's sardonic Aussie Bill Kerr, Colin Elmer's viper-tongued Kenneth Williams, Laura Crowhurst's comely Hattie Jacques and, in particular, Ben Craze's outstanding chancer Sid James adding physical mannerisms to their uncanny vocal performances.

Hosted by the dapper Greenwood, this was an immaculately played re-creation of some of Hancock's finest half hours that reminded you how influential Hancock's hang-dog comedy became. A brief excerpt from The Blood Donor was an unexpected extra treat.

Charles Hutchinson