Monthly Archives: January 2016

Hangmen by Martin Mcdonagh

Hangmen-Wyndhams-269-700x455Hangmen by Martin McDonagh
At the Wyndham’s Theatre
January 7th, 2016

‘They could’ve at least sent Pierrepoint. Hung by a rubbish hangman, oh that’s so me.’
2015 marked the fiftieth anniversary since the abolition of the death penalty in England, and Hangmen acknowledges history through references to Hanratty – one of the last prisoners to be executed in the country. ‘Hangmen’ topical is a dry, black comedy set in the late 1960s. It is about a retired executioner, Harry Wade (played by David Morrissey and presumably named after real-life hangmen Harry Allen and Stephen Wade) who’s embittered by playing second fiddle to chief executioner Albert Pierrepoint. The play opens in 1963 with gallows humour in a brutal arresting scene of Harry’s cold-blooded hanging of a desperate young man protesting his innocence.
We’re whisked forward to a pub in Oldham, two years later, on the day that hanging is abolished. The owner, Harry is now displaced in society and no longer a ‘servant of the crown’, but whose 233 executions just two years previously were deemed by the law as a quick, clean and dignified way to dispose of a murderer – far more proper than using the guillotine, which is ‘messy and French’. The male-dominated pub is patronised by a sycophantic, goonish regulars enjoying Harry’s dark notoriety. Harold Wilson’s government has just abolished capital punishment and the press want Wade to give his verdict, which he does in staggeringly bumptious style. Morrisey, distinctive in his suit and dickie-bow tie, towers over all, simultaneously gives us Wade, the bully and Wade, a coward. Still in the shadows, Wade’s former assistant, the self-effacing Syd (Reece Shearsmith) struggles with his own identity against a barrage of Wade’s mean-spirited gags.

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