In 1958 Tony Hancock was riding high as the star of Hancock’s Half Hour, which was running on both BBC television and radio.
On the evening on the 9th of February 1958 he gave a rare straight acting performance in the BBC World Theatre production of Gogol’s The Government Inspector.
Hancock was bolstered by an impressive supporting cast (including Wilfred Brambell, Peter Copley and Noel Howlett) and he acquitted himself well – although he’s still recognisably Hancock. Indeed, it would be easy to believe that some of his lines were written by Galton & Simpson, which is possibly why it was felt that this play would be a perfect fit for him.
This was such an obvious extra to include on the Hancock’s Half Hour DVD boxset, released a few years back, that its omission was baffling. The only time it’s surfaced in recent years was when it was one of the programmes offered as part of the BBC Archive Trial (an online test service) in 2007.
Given that the BBC seem to have no interest at present in making this commercially available, I’ve decided to upload it my YouTube account. Hopefully it’ll stay there for a while, which will allow a wider audience to enjoy this unique Hancock performance.