The Lift is one of the best Hancock adaptations from series one of PM in G&S’s …. Partly this is because of the supporting cast – Michael Fenton Stevens as the oily producer, Sam Kelly as the truculent lift man and the always reliable Geoffrey Whitehead as the Air Marshall, amongst others.
The episode keeps the same location (a television studio) although it’s no longer the BBC, instead we’re at the rather obviously made-up Alpha Television (why they didn’t simply call it Carlton is a bit of a mystery). As in the original, the queue for the lift slowly grows and as each new person appears they press the button, no doubt under the impression that no-one else would have thought of it!
Paul’s rather taken with an attractive secretary (Sheridan Forbes) who’s joined the queue, but she’s immune to his charms, preferring instead to bask in the glow of a producer (Fenton Stevens), who can’t help but modestly mention all the top shows he’s involved in. Also present and correct is Paul’s baiting of the Air Marshall, here he’s taunting him to press the lift button. “Go on, pretend it’s a rocket. You’d enjoy that, wouldn’t you? Go on, five, four, three, two, one …”
Also waiting patiently is Peter Jones as the Vicar. He’s probably best known as the Voice of the Book from The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, although that was just a small part of a long and distinguished career. Having a comedy great like Jones onboard is yet another reason why this one is so enjoyable.
A few tweaks are made to bring it up to date. The lift man from the original is replaced with a maintenance man (lift men were clearly a thing of the past). Also, the producer has a mobile phone with him – although he keeps quite about it for a while!
Anne Reid ramps up the hysteria as a woman suffering from claustrophobia (“that’s a handy thing to have in a lift” says Paul cheerfully). From Paul musing about how there won’t be enough oxygen left for everyone in the future (“the man with the biggest hooter will survive”) to his attempts to keep the others entertained with parlour games, there’s plenty to enjoy.
A fine ensemble piece. Whilst the original is a classic slice of comedy, this version is not too shabby at all.