Review of Homage to Hancock

Mark Bamforth's Homage to Hancock was performed on Monday 19th June.  The show was reviewed by Leslie Kerkham:

The life of Tony Hancock (very definitely to be confused with the character he played of the same name) was that of the archetypal tragic clown. He never came to comprehend that his stupendous early success was the product of some easily discernible factors.

Post war austerity, the British taste for seeing the balloon of pomposity pricked, and the support of some of some of the best comic writers and character actors in the world. One of these factors was not a transcendent and unappreciated genius that needed no help from anyone. Hancock abandoned his comic roots and his proper milieu, struck out on his own and after what became a series of defeats, came face to face with his own mediocrity, which he could not accept. In the end committing suicide in a seedy Sydney hotel room at the age of forty four.

The essence of all this was brilliantly conveyed by Mark Bamforth, in a controlled and nuanced performance that I believe is one of the most sophisticated he has ever given. Having some physical resemblances to the lad himself, he and director Paula Vickers wisely opted not to attempt a straight imitation, and this gave the piece added naturalism and poignancy.

The Homage was in two parts, firstly one of the early stand-alone shows Hancock Alone, which was gently self mocking but strangely prescient of the darkness to come. Mark took his time to establish his persona and at times could have projected better. He came into his own in part two, a superbly written imagining of Hancock’s Last Half Hour, just before the suicide. Gesture, movement, tone and timing melded into a polished performance from an actor who knew exactly what he was doing. Hancock himself would have benefitted from being there. Susan Spencer, Paul Coultas, Mary Wilkinson, John Jameson, Ian Whitehead, Jane Ellison Bates and David Oldridge all contributed to a moving evening of theatre which at its finale had the jam-packed audience on their feet, roaring approval.

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