Loft Theatre, Leamington, until November 9
Tickets: 01926 830860
Review by Nick Le Mesurier
Some of the most notorious killers in British history have been on the right side of the law. Hangmen, by Martin McDonagh, features Harry Wade (Craig Shelton), a character based on Harry Allen, one-time assistant, and here rival to Albert Pierrepoint (Gus MacDonald), each in their day, chief executioners in the service of the Crown.
If you go to see a Martin MacDonagh play you might expect very dark comedy. This is about as dark as it gets. The play centres on the character of Wade, a self-satisfied man, proud of his craft and not above a few unorthodox methods. When he’s not killing people he’s a publican, aided by his long-suffering wife Alice (Susanne Jackson-Mayne) and his moody daughter Shirley (Lauren Bignall). Then there are the regulars, as rag-tag a bunch of boozy characters as you’re likely to meet: Bill (Dave Candy), Inspector Fry (Pete Gillam) and Charlie (Martin Cosgrif).
All is as well as it can be in the Wade household until a stranger enters the bar. He is Peter Mooney (Jimmy Proctor), a character seemingly without motive, but full of malice. He’s come for something, but what? Maybe it has something to do with Hennesy (Pete Gillam), Wade’s last official victim. Or maybe it’s Shirley he’s after? And what does Harry’s hapless assistant, Syd (Phil Reynolds) know?
The play features some marvellous character studies and really superb acting. Many are old hands at the game, but three are new to the Loft with a great future ahead of them. Every part is played to perfection.
If you like existential comedy with a strong undercurrent of absurdity operating beneath the veneer of civilisation, Hangmen might be just the play for you!