What’s it all about?
Never has gallows humour been so literal than in the West End transfer of Martin McDonagh’s triumphant Royal Court hit, and if you’re worried it can’t live up to the hype (and five star reviews), fear not, this black comedy about a former hangman turned pub proprietor is sensational.
Set in a smoke-stained Oldham local, landlord Harry’s life as the second best hangman in the country – yes, that accolade was a thing in the 1950s apparently – comes back to haunt him when a cocksure Londoner swaggers into his pub with less than desirable intentions. Hilarious, surreal and acutely well observed, McDonagh and director Matthew Dunster serve up an instant modern classic with this wickedly funny triumph.
Who’s in it?
Part of the joy of this hugely entertaining piece is the casting: it’s hard to imagine anyone playing Harry with more gruff intimidation than the always brilliant David Morrissey or having better comic timing than Simon Rouse as the deaf and wonderfully insensitive Arthur. Andy Nyman – the only new member of the leading cast for this West End run – is hilarious as Harry’s former assistant, the eternally trod upon Syd, while Sally Rogers and Bronwyn James are oddly heart-warming as warring mother and daughter.
Even in an ensemble cast as strong as this, there’s always one person who shines just that bit brighter and Hangmen’s star is undoubtedly Johnny Flynn. Marking his first leading West End role as the menacing outsider Mooney, Flynn is outstanding. Walking the sociopathic line between downright creepy and bizarrely charismatic, this is Flynn’s show.
What should I look out for?
The design. Joshua Carr’s evocative lighting and Ian Dickson’s sound is transformative while Anna Fleischle’s jaw-dropping set is surely an Olivier Award nomination in the making…
McDonagh’s flair for quick-witted, fast-paced dialogue that sweeps you into his created world as if you’ve pulled up a bar stool in Harry’s bar and are observing it all with a pint of ale and bag of peanuts in your hand.
Oh yeah, an insatiable craving for a pint of ale and bag of peanuts.
In a nutshell?
Martin McDonagh serves up an instant modern classic with the wickedly funny, blackly surreal and surprisingly heart-warming Hangmen.
What’s being said on Twitter?
Absolutely LOVED #Hangmen at the Wyndhams last night. Best thing I’ve seen in years. Can’t stop thinking about it. Massively recommend.
— Katherine Jakeways (@katherinejake) December 8, 2015
— Simon Darwen (@Darwen88) December 8, 2015
Will I like it?
If you are a fan of modern drama, this is an absolute must see. A play about hanging might not seem like a laugh a minute night out, but McDonagh’s writing is a complete joy and this exploration of the morality of this now extinct British judicial tradition is as thought provoking as it is darkly funny.