After a 12-year hiatus writing for the stage, London-born Irish playwright Martin
McDonagh returns to theatre, which he described in The Observer as the ‘worst of all artforms’. If that’s the case, he’s doing his best to mock that statement with his latest dark comical offering, HANGMEN, a savage satire on the justice and punishment system – ‘the grimmer side of the swinging sixties’.
Described by one reviewer as a cross between Harold Pinter’s ‘linguistic gamesmanship’ and Joe Orton’s ‘gallows humour’, it’s the Olivier, Oscar and BAFTA winner’s first play set in England, in a small pub in Oldham in 1965 to be precise. Receiving rave reviews and a cluster of five-stars after it’s sell-out run at the Royal Court earlier last year, the production transferred to the West End’s Wyndham’s Theatre and is scheduled to finish in March this year.
What’s Harry Wade, the second-best hangman in England to do on the day they’ve abolished hanging? A reporter and the regular tavern sycophants want to know his reaction, as a peculiar stranger lurks amongst them with a very different motive. Led by David Morrissey as Wade, the outstanding cast includes Andy Nyman, Johnny Flynn, Sally Rogers, Bronwyn James, Ryan Pope, Simon Rouse, Craig Parkinson, Tony Hirst, John Hodgkinson,James Dryden and Josef Davis.
With such a large ensemble, it took more than one sketch to fit them all in and more than one attempt to get it graphed. At this point I thought of resisting the term ‘hanging around stage doors’. But I didn’t. If it’s good enough for distinguished critics like Dominic Cavendish to write “doesn’t loosen it’s grip from start to finish,” and Paul Taylor to say “drop-dead hilarious… perfectly executed,” then I’m in good company. And speaking of good company, the HANGMEN cast were excellent on and off the stage.