The Best of British Comedy
THE CIVIC PLAYERS ON THE RADIO – ON STAGE!
In 2021, The Civic Players of Yeovil came out of their Covid hibernation with a hugely successful production of Don't Dress For Dinner. But never ones to rest on their laurels, they are already preparing their spring 2022 show. And in what is something of a departure for the society, they are doing a radio show. Well, sort of. It cannot have escaped your attention that this year marks Her Majesty the Queen's Platinum Jubilee, celebrating her ascension to the throne in 1952. And The Civic Players will be commemorating this occasion in their own style by presenting classic radio comedies from that eventful decade.
The 1950s were a golden age of radio comedy, with millions tuning in to the wireless to hear stars such as Frankie Howerd, Leslie Phillips, Richard Murdoch, and others. Among the most popular programmes, regularly commanding huge audiences, were Hancock's Half Hour, Round The Horne, Take It From Here and The Goon Show, and it is these four fondly remembered shows that The Civic Players will be re-creating. On a stage resembling a period BBC radio theatre, the cast will gather round microphones, scripts in hand, and perform for the audience, just as Tony Hancock, Jimmy Edwards, Kenneth Williams, Peter Sellers and all the other stars would have done. But don't think that these will be simple readings, the performances will be just as full on and energetic as you would expect, and, being 'radio', the sound effects will be created live in front of the audience, whether that be a simple door opening, someone hiding in a dustbin, or a duck being attacked. It really will have to be seen to be believed!
In choosing the actual episodes to perform, The Civic Players have gone straight for the big hitters. In the case of Hancock, for instance, this means the timeless The Blood Donor, famous for the immortal line “A pint? That's very nearly an armful!” Vice-chairman Rich Walters admits they've been a bit sneaky with this choice. “We want to do classic radio comedy, but The Blood Donor was originally a TV episode, shown during Tony Hancock's final television series on the BBC. However, an audio version was re-recorded a few months later with an slightly modified script and released on LP record, so that's the version we're using!” The Goon Show will be represented by an episode equally well-remembered, with a re-creation of Lurgi Strikes Britain, in which our fair country is (apparently) ravaged by a mysterious new illness and the Government employ drastic measures to combat it. Just as well it's only comedy... Ned Seagoon, Bluebottle, Major Bloodnok and the rest will deal with the situation in their own surreal style. And as for the other episodes, well, don't worry – blustering Pa Glum, intellectually challenged lovebirds Ron and Eth, upright Mr Horne, masters of camp Julian and Sandy, and the others, will all be present and correct. Just be aware, some of this comedy will reflect the language and attitudes of the times in which it was written!
The Civic Players Present The BBC – Best of British Comedy will be performed at the Swan Theatre, Yeovil from 25 to 28 May 2022.