Hangmen at the Wyndham’s Theatre
Martin McDonagh’s new play Hangmen was undeniably the theatrical event of the year with its premiere at the Royal Court, making its transfer to the West End inevitable. McDonagh’s earlier plays such as The Cripple of Inishmaan and The Pillowman are poignant examples of his explorative canon, delving into the inner workings and shames of modern society – and Hangmen is no exception.
Directed by Matthew Dunster, the darkly tuned comedy follows Harry Wade (played by David Morrissey), England’s second best hangman, after the abolition of hanging in 1965 Great Britain. Wade, a proud Northerner, resides in his very own smoky pub in Oldham where he boasts of his past glories and chides the local boozers at his haughty leisure. The majority of the play is set in this ale-soaked ashtray of a tavern, thoughtfully designed by Anna Fleischle, and serves as the backdrop to this slightly misogynistic and mildly offensive sitcom. Like most of the Royal Court productions the set design was quite marvellous with the dank, luminous cell hosting Hennessy’s hanging in the opening scene, which rose to the ceiling like an elevator shaft to reveal the Oldham pub.
The entrance of Johnny Flynn’s perplexing and mysterious character, the unfamiliar Southerner, Mooney stains the initial comfort conveyed by the Oldham locals with their grim humour and vaguely scandalous remarks. Flynn’s slightly eccentric performance resonates and intrigues with every word as the odd and menacing interloper. McDonagh shows off his craft here as each line is cutting with merciless humour.
The play explores morality and honour, the justification of the former and the unrelenting nature of the latter. McDonagh investigates the “pacifist’s rage” as he puts it, and like this term the play is riddled with contradictions. Between the supposed innocence of a convicted man and the obedient tolerance of a population Hangmen, like most great plays, leaves us questioning whether there is justice in this wicked world.
Hangmen is on at Wyndham’s Theatre from 1st December 2015 until 5th March 2016, for further information or to book visit here.