Goon Again, and Again…and Again?
Back in October I was part of a cast of actors charged with recreating the madness and mayhem of the highly esteemed Goon Show! This professional production from the Old Joint Stock Theatre Company was given life for the Birmingham Comedy Festival, and was the first official theatrical outing of the show since 2001. The Goon Show was an enormous success during its run in Birmingham and Croydon, many audience members converted to the Goons after this first taste of the show, and many more asking if there’d be a full tour. We even had requests for a couple of private bookings, and interest from several theatres. Cherry on the cake for me was the reaction of the august chairman of The Goon Show Preservation Society who hunted us down to our green room during the interval – in short he loved it! As a cast, playing those wonderful characters, we all said we’d Go-on with the show for another decade if the chance arose. It was bliss!
It really has been an eventful year. There have been many significant anniversaries on the calendar in 2014, and in the world of light entertainment one of them is the 60th anniversary of Hancock’s Half Hour. The series was essentially a sitcom centred on Anthony Aloysius St John Hancock and his various housemates and chums, brought to life by a cast including Moira Lister, Andrée Melly, Bill Kerr, Hattie Jacques, Sid James and Kenneth Williams. Created by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, Hancock’s Half Hour was pretty much a definitive sitcom and ran for six glorious series, beginning with ‘The First Night Party’ on 2nd November 1954…and of course it follows that the BBC have mislaid quite a few episodes over the decades. Step forward Neil Pearson, a well-known actor and antiquarian book dealer, who managed to acquire a large number of original scripts from numerous BBC radio comedy shows, including The Goon Show. Mr Pearson, together with renowned producer Ed Morrish, set about recreating a selection of the missing episodes from the Hancock’s Half Hour archive for the BBC, casting the fabulous Kevin R. McNally as “the lad himself”. The Missing Hancocks really are masterpieces, great scripts, inspired casting, and a stylish revival of 1950’s wireless.
“Why is he wittering on about Hancock in a piece about The Goon Show?” I hhhhhh…hear you cry. Well, for one thing there are many curious links between Hancock’s Half Hour and The Goon Show. For example, during the first series Peter Sellers features in an episode called’ The Marriage Bureau’, and when Tony Hancock vanished for a number of weeks in 1955, the BBC drafted in Harry Secombe to take his place as the central figure in the show for three episodes. Oh, and the theme and incidental music for both shows came from the talented maestro Angela Morley. Coincidences aside, it also occurred to me that there is surely a market for a similar radio revitalisation of the missing Goon Show episodes? Most notably ripe for re-creation are shows from series three and four and perhaps the early series when it was known as Crazy People. And of course, should the BBC in their wisdom consider such an brilliant move, there’s a ready-made cast of very fine actors waiting in the wings for their cue…
FX – COINS FALLING INTO HAT, FOLLOWED BY FOUR MIGHTY WHOOSHES
* The final episode of the Missing Hancocks ‘The New Neighbour’ is broadcast on BBC Radio Four on Friday 28th November