Hancock's Half Hour recreated by BBC

Episodes of 1950s radio sitcom that have been lost from archives to be remade for Radio 4, starring Kevin McNally

BBC Radio 4 is to recreate lost episodes of 1950s radio sitcom Hancock's Half Hour, with a new cast including Pirates of the Caribbean actor Kevin McNally in the title role originally taken by the late Tony Hancock.

The Missing Hancocks will consist of five of the 20 episodes missing from the BBC archives. They are to be broadcast in November to mark the 60th anniversary of the show's first transmission.

Hancock's Half Hour was the first major hit for the writing partnership of Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, who went on to create Steptoe and Son. The pair have chosen the five Hancock scripts that will be re-recorded by a cast that also includes Simon Greenall, Kevin Eldon and Robin Sebastian.

The series begins recording on Tuesday evening in front of an audience at the BBC Radio Theatre in central London.

Hancock's Half Hour, based on a fictionalised version of Tony Hancock's life as a struggling comic and actor, was originally broadcast on the BBC Home Service between 1954 and 1959, with 103 episodes recorded. A TV version began in 1956, running for five years and more than 60 episodes.

Bill Kerr co-starred in the radio version as Hancock's dim-witted Australian lodger while Sid James played a cunning businessman, who often succeeded in conning Hancock. Hattie Jacques, Kenneth Williams and Moira Lister are among other comedy actors who featured regularly.

The series is widely regarded as the first British sitcom, focusing on characters and situations over a single half-hour sketch, rather than stand-up comedy or variety which was then dominant in British radio.

Series co-producer Neil Pearson said the idea came about when he was researching some original Hancock scripts for a rare book catalogue and realised many had been "lost" from the BBC archive.

"We will be re-creating as closely as possible the experience you would have had listening to your radio all those years ago. The scripts are perfect and timeless," Pearson said. "We will be recording the programmes in front of a live audience at BBC Radio Theatre and, rather thrillingly, the BBC Concert Orchestra will be re-recording the theme tune for the new series."

Contributor

Hatty Collier

The GuardianTramp

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