The Set That Failed
Hancock’s Half-Hour

You don’t know when you’re well off. Anthony Hancock, son of strangers, has to cadge a viddy of his favourite television shows, the world’s oblivious to everything else except him if he’s noticed, nothing but conversation about Charlie Chan’s number two and three sons, Quemoy and Matsu.

That comes from swift kicks at the telly to change channels. If all else fails, there’s the cinema.


The Bargee

Plying the canals, London to Birmingham, plying the locks.

A mistress sends him packing, there are others.

A mistress is with child, her father raises a ruckus, the bargee returns from an armful in Birmingham to be hitched, dry-docked, landed.

She plies the trade with him.

A very grateful analysis of Antonioni’s Gente del Po, filmed in Techniscope and Technicolor with the brilliance of Annakin’s Three Men in a Boat.

“Leaden comedy” (Tom Milne, Time Out Film Guide), “sinks like a stone” (Film4), “rough and vulgar but not very funny” (Halliwell’s Film Guide), to which the only reply can be, in the bargee’s words, Gordon Bennett.


Beyond the Fringe

Leslie Phillips is in Boeing-Boeing with Patrick Cargill, “now in its 3rd year”. Constance Cummings stars in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. Frankie Howerd heads the cast of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

Alan Bennett, Peter Cook, Jonathan Miller and Dudley Moore are down from Ox or Cam to dispel boredom, an endless subject, everything that is boring. Not a theme to set the world on fire, they admit in the end, but sweet relief nonetheless.

As a diversion, Moore’s tenor voice (a thing one never hears) at the piano in, for example, a Britten version of “Little Miss Muffet” that the master might have claimed.

The great and the small take their turn under the lights, deadly ennui stared fixedly at gives up the ghost and departs, politicos, clergymen, boffins, wackos, the common man and actors shredding the Bard four hundred years on, from the viewpoint of the title, well and truly out of it, also the war, a fatiguing business, and America to begin with.