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Impressionist James Hurn pays tribute to classic sitcom Hancock Half Hour in Romford

PUBLISHED: 15:18 06 March 2018 | UPDATED: 15:26 06 March 2018

James Hurn is known for his work on Dead Ringers for BBC 2, as well as Scoop,  and The Slammerand Band of Brothers. Photo: James Hurn.

James Hurn is known for his work on Dead Ringers for BBC 2, as well as Scoop, and The Slammerand Band of Brothers. Photo: James Hurn.

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An impressionist will be performing three episodes from a classic British sitcom in Romford next month.

To celebrate over 60 years of Hancock's Half Hour, James Hurn will be voicing the entire cast in a performance at Brookside Theatre. Photo: James Hurn.To celebrate over 60 years of Hancock's Half Hour, James Hurn will be voicing the entire cast in a performance at Brookside Theatre. Photo: James Hurn.

To celebrate more than 60 years of Hancock’s Half Hour, actor and impressionist James Hurn will be performing, Hancock’s Half Hour, One Man, Many Voices at Brookside Theatre in Eastern Road on April 13.

He told the Recorder: “Hancock’s Half Hour is timeless, harmless comedy.

“It’s for children and adults. Some of the things that the children won’t understand in the way of jokes, the adults will get.

“The comedy comes from the facial expressions and the way things are said.”

The Newbury-based impressionist explained that his audiences are often made up of both young and old fans of Sidney James and Tony Hancock.

“I was introduced to Hancock quite young because my dad liked to listen to it,” James said.

“It’s nice to be able to introduce it to new generations because it would be a shame if people like James and Hancock were lost in the passing of time.”

Hancock’s Half Hour was broadcast from 1954 to 1961, and it began as a BBC radio comedy and later became a television series.

James Hurn will be performing episodes from Hancock's Half Hour in the style of a radio performance. Photo: James Hurn.James Hurn will be performing episodes from Hancock's Half Hour in the style of a radio performance. Photo: James Hurn.

James said: “It was probably the first sitcom.

“Before that you had stand-up comedy, but this was one of the first times you had a bunch of characters, and it was all about the situations they shared.

“The conversation was very detailed and the magic was in the writing.”

James will be voicing the entire cast and performing three classic episodes, Sunday Afternoon at Home, The Missing Page, and The Thirteenth Series.

Speaking about Hancock’s legacy, the impressionist suggested that the well-known comedy series Blackadder might have its roots in Hancock.

“Blackadder was supposedly one of the smarter characters and that’s what it was like with Hancock,” said James.

“He was meant to come across as the more intelligent one of the group, but he was always making mistakes.”

James has performed the show at many venues, including Poole’s Lighthouse Theatre, Crescent Theatre in Birmingham and before full houses at London’s Museum of Comedy.

He explained that despite playing all of the characters in the show, each character is still very distinct.

“You have got to be on your toes as a performer, it’s very visual and it’s very audio,” he said.

“Hancock’s Half Hour is like a nice little enclosed space, it doesn’t really venture out into the wider world.”

James also enjoys impersonating modern characters, including Michael Caine, Tom Hanks, Jack Nicholson and Robert De Niro.

Every Sunday he does a Facebook Live for his fans to request impersonations for him to do.

The performer discovered his talent for impersonations at a young age.

James said: “Most children have quite a good imagination, especially when you’re young and read stories, you might do different voices - and that was the case for me.

“I was always imitating the teachers at school, and it all sort of helped me develop the skills when I became an adult and started doing it professionally.

“You’re training your ear all the time.”

He has also performed in Steven Spielberg’s Band of Brothers series and BBC TV Sketch series, Dead Ringers.

James’ voice talents were put to work in the Radio 4 play The Bid, where he starred as David Beckham and Prince William.

Speaking about his acting experiences, the Hancock impersonator said: “It’s brilliant, it’s always something new and challenging and for an actor that’s just what you want - to be taken out of your comfort zone.

“I was in The 39 Steps in the West End and it was fantastic, there was a lot of going out one door and then 30 seconds later, entering another door as someone else.

“It’s a bit like a magic trick, and that’s the kind of theatre I like to watch myself.”

Tickets are £14 with £12 concessions, call Brookside Theatre on 01708 755775 to buy tickets.

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