The Lad Himself: Tony Hancock brought to life in funny nostalgic show ***

Mark Brailsford as Tony Hancock in The Lad Himself

Mark Brailsford as Tony Hancock in The Lad Himself - Credit: Michael Hutson

The Lad Himself
Upstairs at the Gatehouse 

Written by Roy Smiles and starring Mark Brailsford, The Lad Himself trades on the reverence for Tony Hancock which endures long after his premature death in 1968.

Hancock’s Half Hour is regularly repeated on BBC4 Extra: biographies and articles about this quintessentially British comic abound, and there's a thriving Appreciation Society.

The action here takes place in a waiting room. Brailsford (superb) is instantly recognisable in Homburg hat, astrakhan collared overcoat, heavy jowls and air of gloom.

Mark Brailsford as Tony Hancock 

Mark Brailsford as Tony Hancock - Credit: Michael Hutson

“If they ask me to give blood, there’ll be trouble!” he remarks, raising a chuckle of recognition.

The waiting room turns out to be Limbo from which the recently deceased wait to be despatched through the Pearly Gates or eternal damnation.

Over 80 minutes the well constructed show saunters through Hancock's life and career with cockle-warming nostalgia-inducing references to Flash, Dr Finlay, Twiggy, The Tufty Club and Harry Worth.

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Hancock's contempt for petty officialdom, pomposity, self importance, and compulsive sarcasm are all present here as he shares his views about his struggles to work with others, his failures with women, alcoholism and eventual suicide - not to mention his comic genius and timing.

Mark Brailsford as Tony Hancock in The Lad Himself

Mark Brailsford as Tony Hancock in The Lad Himself - Credit: Nick West

Brailsford catches the comic's posture, mannerisms and vocal intonations perfectly. Three others play a variety of roles, one clearly a Kenneth Williams character but, oddly only a short mention of Sid James and nothing at all of Bill Kerr and Hattie Jacques.

While the first half rattled along at a fine old clip, the pace disappointingly stuttered post interval as we moved somewhat awkwardly from episode to episode. But overall a nostalgic, funny evening.

The Lad Himself is at Upstairs at the Gatehouse until May 1.