"Ladies and gentlemen, I shall now bid you all good day...
None of you know what you're looking at. You wait 'til I'm dead, you'll see I
was right!" So said Tony Hancock at the end of his 1961 film
Nothing really goes wrong with this production, but it is a play with no surprises and a well-known ending.
The next seven years were filled with increasing self-doubt, destructive introspection and dependence on vodka. He abandoned friends who had contributed to his success and moved to Australia. Mixed reviews for his new work there contributed to his depressive state and ultimate suicide in 1968 at the age of 44.
We enter Hancock’s disheveled bedroom to find him curled up in bed. As he rises, his drab grey clothes blend perfectly with general gloom. There’s vodka everywhere and a bottle of pills sits ominously on the chest of drawers. Once awake and after a few swigs he begins a series of pessimistic reflections. From time to time he picks up a book of memories, philosophy or trivia, or the the odd newspaper cutting. These act as stimuli for his laments over events and tirades against people. From Sid James to Sigmund Freud, no one is exempt.
Pip Utton successfully conveys the bitterness, anger and sadness that Hancock must have felt in those final moments, but in giving vent to his emotions, the words are sometimes lost in soulful mumblings or raucous rants. There are attempts at humour to lighten the heavy burden, but these lines rarely raise more than a smile or chuckle. Without Hancock’s distinctive voice and self-deprecating presentation they just don’t seem that funny.
After reading the poor reviews of his final performances, he pens a note to his mother saying, "Things seem to have gone wrong just too many times." Nothing really goes wrong with this production, but it is a play with no surprises and a well-known ending. It will mainly appeal to those who look back with nostalgia on the works of a comedian who, without realising, did actually get it right. As he said so many times, “Stone me. What a life!”