Entertainment & Arts

Lost Tony Hancock scripts to be staged at Edinburgh Fringe

Tony Hancock and Hattie Jacques in Hancock's Half Hour
Image caption Hancock's Half Hour began as a radio show before transferring to television

Missing episodes of the BBC comedy series Hancock's Half Hour will be brought back to life at this year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Four scripts will be staged at the Assembly Rooms in August, after being rediscovered by actor Neil Pearson.

His finds led to a BBC Radio 4 series last year that recreated several shows whose recordings had been wiped.

The Fringe show will feature four previously unseen scripts, Pearson told Scotland on Sunday.

"The scripts are as fresh and as funny as if they were written yesterday," he said.

"As well as being quite hilarious reads, [they] are quite valuable artefacts, which link us not just to the period but the very time when they were recorded."

Image caption Neil Pearson will direct the show, which runs at the Fringe throughout August

Pearson, who made his name in Channel 4 newsroom satire Drop The Dead Donkey, came across the scripts as part of his side-career as a second hand book dealer.

He acquired them through the estate of a freelance comedy writer and, while researching them, discovered that some of them were for episodes whose recordings were wiped by the BBC.

His research concluded that 20 of the 103 Hancock's Half Hour radio shows are missing, including three in which an absent Hancock was replaced by Harry Secombe.

Radio 4 recorded and broadcast a number of the missing episodes to mark the comedy's 60th anniversary last year. Pearson says a second series is in the works.

Image caption The series also starred Kenneth Williams (left), Bill Kerr (second right) and Sid James (right)

In Edinburgh, as on radio, the role of Tony Hancock will played by Pirates of the Caribean star Kevin McNally.

"When people come to the live show it will be as if you are attending the original radio recording in the 1950s," said Pearson.

"The characters will have the scripts in their hands around a 1950s microphone, just as it would have been ­recorded at the BBC.

"We will have four absolutely unheard episodes that will be performed in two different shows, so people can come twice if they want."

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