Review: Hangmen @ the Royal Court Theatre, London: ‘A flawless production’
[All images credited to Simon Annand]
Every aspect of this production was perfect. It’s as simple as that.
Martin McDonagh’s writing, in my opinion, is at its very best in Hangmen. Though the premise of this play has quite dark potential, the show is laugh out loud funny, and had the audience in fits of laughter. There are plenty of moments of suspense and indeed poignancy, though, providing the light and shade that makes this show truly wonderful. Credit must also be given to Director Matthew Dunster, who has done a world-class job of ensuring the writing translates so well on stage.
Set on the day hanging is abolished, the play follows the goings-on in a small pub, owned by Harry Wade, the second-best hangman in England. Reporters and pub regulars are desperate to hear Harry’s reaction to the news. Is he really ‘just as good as bloody Pierrepoint?’
David Morrissey’s Harry exudes authority, and his strong presence is a solid foundation throughout the play. His pub regulars are hilarious, and played superbly. Reece Shearsmith plays Harry’s ex-assistant executioner, Syd. Though a surprisingly small role for Shearsmith, he is of course astoundingly good. He makes the most of every joke, and I found it difficult to take my eyes off him.
That is, of course, until Johnny Flynn was on stage. Now’s probably the right time to admit that I’m a HUGE Johnny Flynn fan. Flynn is a spellbinding musician and actor, and he’s one of the most talented creatives I’ve ever come across. With such high expectations of Flynn, I was expecting to be slightly disappointed. I was not disappointed at all. In fact, I spent a good proportion of his first scene in starstruck tears.
Flynn makes it impossible for your attention not to be drawn to him. Playing the “vaguely menacing” character Mooney, he leads the audience on a roller-coaster of emotions – should we trust the, at first affable, Mooney, or is he hiding a sinister side? Flynn takes the audience on a journey with his fantastic acting ability and I loved every moment of it. I’m probably a bit bias, but Johnny Flynn was without doubt the star of this show for me.
The only disappointment of this play was when it eventually, and inevitably, came to an end. I could have spent several more hours in Harry’s pub, entranced by the characters’ journeys and watching their interactions. It’s rare that I can’t find a criticism, but when it comes to Hangmen, I really can’t fault a single thing.
It seemed strange to travel down to London to see a play set in Oldham, with a very strong focus on “The North”, but this should hopefully signal potential to tour the country. Trust me, if Hangmen tours or transfers to the West End, I’ll be queuing for as many tickets as I can.
Though the run at the Royal Court is now sold out (much to my heartache), make sure you keep your eye out for updates as this is surely not the end for this masterpiece.