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The Lost Gay Hancock’s Half Hour

Tony Hancock

When the East Cheam Slipper Baths were demolished in 2017, they discovered a very creased and torn script hidden down the crack behind a massage table. 

This was The Impersonator, a complete script for Hancock’s Half Hour which was scheduled for broadcast on 1 April 1954, seventy years ago.

Why it was never broadcast is not known. Perhaps it was deemed too controversial for the BBC Light Programme. As was known at the time, the Government were about to set up a committee to look at the issues of Homosexuality and Prostitution, such was the company we kept in those days, and the Wolfenden Committee was indeed set up in August 1954 and it took three years to produce its report.

The title of this Hancock's Half Hour, was The Impersonator, and it was recycled for the last ever radio episode, in December 1959.

Hancock’s Half Hour was the most popular UK Radio and TV series between 1954 and 1961, and Tony Hancock the highest-paid comic. At its height it achieved audience figures of 20 million, and the radio version is constantly recycled on Radio 4 Extra to this day.

The young scriptwriters, Galton and Simpson, who were both heterosexual, showed a surprising awareness of the then-current situation. Homo Promos Theatre Company presented a reconstruction of this lost episode, in March 2024.

What the original cast would have made of it is unknown, and it’s uncertain whether they even saw the script. Hancock certainly did, otherwise why was it in the East Cheam Slipper Baths?

The new cast was:

The performance is subsequently going to be engineered by NEON in Amsterdam, so linking music and sound effects will be absent for this performance. We intend to post it on YouTube on the 70th anniversary at the beginning of April 2024.

Peter Scott-Presland