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Lost Tony Hancock scripts performed for first time in Wolverhampton

By Robert Cox | Theatre & Comedy | Published:

It was a comedic performance 65 years overdue.

James Hurn who played blundering Hancock.

Originally penned for 50s and 60s star Tony Hancock, scripts for two episodes of Vacant Lot lay buried in the BBC archives until recently.

They had been written by Hancock's close friend and acclaimed West Bromwich-born comedy writer, Larry Stephens.

They would have been intended for radio and so producer Dave Freak had the cast perform script-in-hand to an audience of around 80 at the Wolverhampton's Light House.

It is believed to be the first time anybody outside of the BBC has heard the material and was the first ever recording.

The first episode followed would-be local councillor Hancock as he battles to recover a prized clock he accidentally auctions off.

Hancock is the classic blundering and haphazard sort of character which an audience cannot help but take to their heart.

As he puts it in a moment of self-awareness: "I am the grandfather of all headaches."

Having been intended for radio, the visual elements of the performance were understandably limited.

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But what theatrical elements there were greatly enhanced the dialogue, whether that be Hancock's strained facial expressions at the sound of his car breaking down, or one of the male actors portraying a pet dog having his beard stroked.

The show was a throwback to a time of genteel comedy which is now all too rare.

And the humour was routed more than anything else in the great writing of West Bromwich's Larry Stephens.

Hancock's forgetful auntie tells him: "I have to remember to go to bed early, so I can be sure to wake up early, so I can be sure I will be tired enough to go to bed early again tomorrow night."

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By the end of the 45-minute episode Hancock has managed to recover the clock but is saddened to learn its owner no longer wants it having received a significant pot of inheritance money in the intervening period and no longer feeling the clock is suitable for a man of his means.

The second 'lost' episode sees, in a drive to promote tourism, Mayor Ambrose Tripfield calling on Hancock for assistance. But a copywriting gaffe looks set to destroy the reputations of both Hancock and Churdley Bay, where the comedy is set.

Hancock is the kind of character who charms and despairs the audience in equal measure and Saturday's performances were a wonderful first telling of these lost tales.

Robert Cox

By Robert Cox
Senior Reporter - @rcox_star

Senior Reporter covering news in Wolverhampton.

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