‘Hangmen’ is located in a small Oldham pub where we are familiarised with pub landlord, Harry who was infamous as the second-best hangman in England. The reason why he became a pub landlord was due to the fact that he and his colleagues wrongly hanged an innocent man by the name of, Hennessy (Josef Davies) for a crime he didn’t commit. Two years later, he along with his wife, Alice and daughter, Shirley (Bronwyn James) have adjusted to their new lives with an array of devoted locals such as; Bill (Tony Hirst), Arthur (Simon Rouse) and Charlie (Ryan Pope)who appear to spend their time sipping beer and chomping on peanuts at the same time, seven days a week. They are informed that there is a serial killer on the loose and Harry’s former assistant, Syd (Andy Newman) explains that the serial killer is the same man who they were supposed to have hanged two years ago. When peculiar and youthful male, Peter Mooney arrives on the scene, people become suspicious of his presence, on the contrary, Harry’s daughter, Shirley seems drawn to him and as he gives her some level of affection, which she rarely receives. This gives Peter the perfect opportunity to manipulate her without her knowing this in such a cunning manner and as the days plod on by where Peter has become a regular of the pub and when he and Shirley are left on their own he invites her to go to the beach. Alice is obviously concerned that he could be using her daughter just to have his wicked way with her. When Shirley doesn’t come home Harry and Alice are really worried and as Peter took Shirley to the beach, he becomes the foremost suspect and over the course of the performance, they are informed that their daughter has been murdered in a garage which is right by the seaside. Understandably, Harry is incensed and is sought out to cause Peter an immense amount of pain and when Peter returns to the pub in the hope of renting a room in the flat upstairs he is perplexed by Alice’s defensiveness. Harry, when he sets his sights on Peter, he goes ballistic and with the help of Syd and the pub’s locals, they kill Peter or so they think but when Inspector Fry (Craig Parkinson) and Albert Pierrepoint (John Hodgkinson) are inspecting the local area, they are none the wiser that Mooney is currently hanging behind a closed curtain in an area of the pub, Unfortunately, Pierrepoint removes a chair that Peter is standing on and he is coldly murdered and at the finale, it is known that they have found the serial killer and it was not Peter, so it seems that they have exterminated the wrong man, once again for Harry and Syd. McDonagh’s narrative is stupendous as this black comedy combines both the obvious humour with the serious moments as the story about the abolition of hanging and how those involved in it have to re-acclimatise to the circumstance and with a serial killer about, could they find him and be forgiven?
One found the performances by the company of, ‘Hangmen’ to be amazing as the camaraderie of the actors were terrific, as well as, their vocal projection travelled right through the entire auditorium without any fluffed lines and the choreographed fight sequences were astonishing. David Morrissey is marvellous as central protagonist, Harry; expressly how he seems somewhat unable to modify his life in which in order to earn a living he has had to re-train and manage a business which is polar opposite to his previous occupation as the country’s second-best hangmen so it must be difficult. Johnny Flynn is hilariously chilling as freakish, Peter Mooney; principally how he can make a group of people in a pub immediately turn around to look at him which means he is unwanted or unwelcome as he is not a regular, furthermore, his facial expressions in some aspects were particularly unnerving which was brilliant to see. Sally Rogers is glorious as Harry’s wife, Alice; mainly how a like she is to the stereotypical landladies you would find in soap operas i.e. Bet Lynch, Angie Watts, Peggy Mitchell and Chastity Dingle, in addition, the devotion she has to her husband was quite pleasant to see.
Matthew Dunster’s direction is awe-inspiring here as he has been able to shape a production that centres around the black humour that has been missing in theatrical art for some time, moreover, the show really captures the bleak and distressing atmosphere of a serial killer that is on the loose and the end of hanging and people’s jobs are at risk. Anna Fleischle’s set and costume designs are magnificently charming as the set of a prison interrogation room which then rises up like hanging is about to rise to a heavenly place to a typical Victorian pub in seconds shows how rousing her set is, what is more, the scenic construction and scenic art is impressive. Overall, the experience of, ‘Hangmen’ was an outstanding new play with a sort of re-invigoration of dark comic plays to today’s audiences.