Lost and found and lost and...

The thrill of reading a comedy masterpiece that has lain, forgotten and never performed, in a box of scripts for half a century is unbeatable. I'd rather have found a lost filmscript by Galton and Simpson than an unknown Leonardo.

But for some reason I was sure that the copy of The Day Off which I borrowed from the G&S archive at Ray Galton's west London home in January 2010 wasn't the sole script. It was a photocopy, one of a pair... or so I thought. So I was fairly relaxed about reading it – on the train, on a bench in a London park, and generally in the mundane spots that are the spiritual home of Tony Hancock.

It was Hancock who was to star in The Day Off, after all, and Hancock whose rejection of the script in 1961 first consigned it to the oubliette.

A few days after my Galton & Simpson anthology, The Masters Of Sitcom, was published last autumn, Ray and Alan's manager Tessa Le Bars called to ask where the script had got to – there was talk of a reading at the BFI on the South Bank, but a trawl through the archive in Ray's cellars had not located a copy.

It was at that moment that I realised how close I had come, not to being the clever chap who found a hidden gem... but the idiot who lost it forever.

Thankfully, the manuscript was safe, and it was soon delivered to Jonathan Wakeham of the London Comedy Festival, who did a brilliant job of abridging it for performance.
You can see clips of the reading, with Tom Goodman Hill as Hancock, here.