Radio comedy has been a part of our culture since the earliest days of the BBC. Hancock’s Half Hour is one of the finest examples of this genre. A medley of sketches have been revived to tickle our funny bones in this delightful touring play from the Apollo Theatre Company.

The original Ray Galton & Alan Simpson scripts are as sharply on point today as they were when the duo first penned them in the 50s and 60s. The words flow with rapid cadence, the lines landing punch after comic punch. Hancock touches a nerve as the plots reveal deeper truths about human nature. The blood donation sketch displays many sides of Hancock’s complex character. He vacillates between sanctimoniously wanting to give blood but then he doesn’t want to get hurt or part with too much of the precious red stuff. The doctor calmly persuades him by appealing to his vanity, pumping him up as he tells him he has a very rare blood type.

Comedy really celebrates the nature of radio as a unique medium, inviting us to develop the theatre of our minds. James Hurn as “the lad himself”, teasingly invites us to use our imagination to think of him as an emaciated starving man in a loin cloth in “The Wild Man of the Woods”. In this sketch, Hancock rejects society by camping out in Clapham Common. His lofty aims are undermined by the earthy humdrum reality of life.

While trying to persuade an American army officer to rent a room in his suburban house in Cheam, Hancock tells him “This place is steeped in history, at that very table Sir Frances Drake planned the battle of Waterloo, you can still see the cigarette burns..”

It’s not just the script that makes the audience guffaw, it’s also the distinctively familiar delivery from the cast. Each actor performs impressions of well-loved comedians. Colin Elmer’s Kenneth Williams is particularly delicious in its accuracy. Close your eyes and just listen to those exaggerated drawn out vowels, long rolled ‘rrr’s and contrasting clipped sentence ends. B’dum. He plays different characters in each sketch, all with the great timing and heart warming campness that endeared Williams to his audiences, “Ooh, don’t be so rotten”.

One of the wonderful elements of having a show performed live is audience participation. The actors played with the eager crowd. Quick asides, pauses and side glances added to the experience, the rolling laughter was infectious. This classic show will certainly reward you with an entertaining, upbeat night out.

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