Review: Hangmen Is 'Refreshingly Original And Flawlessly Executed'

By Harriet Wilson
Monday 14 December 2015

Hangmen at Wyndham's Theatre until 5th March next year, is a refreshingly original and flawlessly executed play. It is set in 1965, just after the abolition of capital punishment in Britain. The play's protagonist, Harry, finds himself out of his job as a hangman – and what's a hangman to do when hanging is abolished? In this production, highly strung moments are balanced perfectly with a lot of on-edge comedy, none of which are too tongue-in-cheek or at all ropey (unlike these puns).

Engaging from start to finish, Hangmen is a play that I would highly recommend to anybody looking to see a sophisticated, humorous and entirely unique piece of theatre.

The originality of Hangmen is particularly impressive. A combination of tension, seriousness and comedy is rarely seen is as sophisticated a form as it is in this production. The plot, much like the style, takes twists and turns that really are unexpected.

The comic element of Hangmen is well handled. It is quite edgy at times, as might well be expected from a comedy about a hangmen, but the transition between serious and humorous is always smooth; there are no uncomfortable moments where you don't know whether to take something seriously or not. The show, although sombre at times, is never depressing or too heavy – at the same time, it is far from tongue in cheek. An impressive balance between the two has been reached in this production, and the result is extremely impressive.

As far as pace goes, Hangmen is en point for nearly the entirety of the show. The pace drops once or twice but, generally speaking, the show moves along quickly enough that it never loses the audience's attention.

Hangmen, for a show that is based in a pub for nearly the whole of its course, has an incredibly impressive set. There is a secondary stage that hangs above the main stage and is used for 'miniature scenes' – the effect is superb and the idea fantastically singular. As far as the two separate stages go, they are each well-decked, with beer taps that work, and rain that actually falls.
With regards to the relatively small cast of Hangmen, it would be hard to find fault. The protagonist Harry is played by David Morrissey, who is a great all-rounder: fun, engaging and charismatic. Similarly, Johnny Flynn plays a perfectly 'menacing' Mooney – he is fabulously dislikeable and a joy to watch.
Andy Nyman, Bronwyn James and Sally Rodgers (playing Syd, Shirley and Alice respectively) are all extremely impressive cast members. Nyman and James in particular bring a huge degree of energy and entertainment to the production, and Rodgers holds a lot of the scenes together.

The 'pub crowd', although lacking a very distinctive role within Hangmen, add a lot of ambiance to the pub scenes, and increase hugely the overall energy on stage at any one time.

If you are looking for a piece of unique theatre that elegantly combines comedy and tension, you will are bound to enjoy Hangmen. It will engage you, and keep you in suspense, from start to finish. Catch Hangmen before it closes in March next year at Wyndham's Theatre.


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Harriet Wilson

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