McDonagh, Radcliffe And Grandage In The West End

By Harrison Fuller
Wednesday 16 September 2015

Coming up later this month I have the privilege of going to see the new Martin McDonagh piece which is premiering at the Royal Court. Hangmen from what I understand, tells the story of the second last hangman in England on the day of the abolition of capital punishment.

Albert Pierrpoint, as memorably portrayed by Timothy Spall who is soon to be appearing at the Old Vic in Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker, lays claim to being the last hangman in the country and has thus acquired a certain infamy. I imagine the lead character to have a certain bitter charm which is often displayed by towns with the second oldest… or the second largest… This piece promises to have all the hallmarks of McDonagh’s writing; brilliantly observed characters, pathos, humour and charm.

My first encounter with Mcdonagh’s work was reading The Beauty Queen of Leenane however at a visit to the Noel Coward Theatre a couple of years ago, I saw a piece of theatre blew me away. It was simply stunning in every way conceivable. The piece was The Cripple of Inishmaan and was presented by The Michael Grandage Company as part of their inaugural season. I went to see all five of the plays during the 15 month residency at the theatre, but this one was, for me, a stand out piece.

The lead was Daniel Radcliffe, known to millions as Harry Potter from the eponymous franchise and Arthur Kipps from the 2012 film adaptation of The Woman in Black. While he is a well-known film actor, Radcliffe has also impressed on the stage appearing in Equus, How to Succeed in Business… as well as The Cripple of Inishmaan. He has had success in both the West End and on Broadway and after seeing his performance live it is easy to see why. His characterization of Billy and his stage presence, achieved through his energy, combined to create a performance which will always stay with me. The final moments of the play are still vivid in my mind and I remember feeling total overwhelmed by the ending but also the piece as a whole.

While Radcliffe was the lead of the show, the star was certainly McDonagh’s script. It could make you laugh, make you cry, make you think all in a few lines or stage direction. I would have loved to have seen this show again and my enthusiasm for it goes some way to explain why I am so keen to visit the Royal Court this September.

Incidently, as well as seeing a new piece by McDonagh I am also eager to revisit the Noel Coward and see Photograph 51 starring Nicole Kidman, Michael Grandage’s latest offering. All that is missing is Radcliffe back in the West End…


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Harrison Fuller

Theatre manager, writer, maker.

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