Tony Hancock tribute comes to Highgate - endorsed by Barry Cryer 

The late Barry Cryer with Mark Railsford who plays Tony Hancock in The Lad Himself Upstairs at the Gatehouse in Highgate

The late Barry Cryer with Mark Railsford who plays legendary comic Tony Hancock in The Lad Himself Upstairs at the Gatehouse in Highgate - Credit: Courtesy of Mark Railsford

A "gleefully exuberant" tribute to legendary comic Tony Hancock arrives in Highgate carrying the endorsement of the late Barry Cryer.

The Lad Himself: A Celebration of the Life of Tony Hancock was commended by Cryer when he saw it at the Edinburgh Fringe a decade ago.

Actor Mark Brailsford, who plays Hancock, said when they last met, Cryer told him he was keen to see it again.

“It was so sad that we didn’t get it on in time for Barry to come and see it again, because he would have loved to. It’s just a shame because there was a man who knew Hancock.”

Brailsford recalls that when he was performing Roy Smiles' play in 2012, he was surprised to see Cryer on the front row scrutinising his performance.

It was only after a few backstage drinks that Brailsford learned Cryer had positioned himself because of a faulty hearing aid and was due on the stage three hours later.

Cryer, who died last month aged 86, revealed he had planned to launch a comedy series with Hancock and Monty Python star Eric Idle - but it fell through when Hancock took his own life in 1968.

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Brailsford said he thinks Cryer, who wrote with numerous comedians including Graham Chapman and Morecambe and Wise, hoped to get the comedian back to his best: “They were going to write together and I think it would’ve been Hancock back on top.”

Between 1954 and 1961, Hancock's Half Hour - penned by Galton and Simpson - made him a household name on TV and Radio. But his career took a downturn when he parted with the writing duo, and he struggled with alcoholism and depression. 

Directed by Paul Hodgson, Smiles' play sees Hancock arrive at the pearly gates only to be greeted by a wall of indifference and bureaucracy. As he tries to secure an audience with St Peter, and mingles with other souls in limbo, there are flashes of vintage Hancock as an awkward everyman clashing with a vicar, a doctor and an RAF commodore.

The Lad Himself runs Upstairs at the Gatehouse from April 20-May 1. Visit upstairsatthegatehouse.ticketsolve.com/shows/1173620442/events/428446691 for tickets.