Live Theatre from the London West End: Hangmen


As part of the Live Stage to the Screen series, this Thursday Cineplex will be showing the recent winner of Best New Play at the Olivier Awards, Hangmen.

The piece was written and directed by one of the best playwrights at work in the UK, Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, Seven Psychopats), who went ten years without treating his fans with new material, at least on stage.

Hangmen takes place mostly at a pub the day the British government announced the abolition of capital punishment (1965, not that long ago). While the decision has a considerable impact in the general population, no one is more affected than Harry Allen (David Morrissey), England’s second best executioner.

Harry is not a likeable character and the historical decision only exacerbates his less than savoury traits: Racist, homophobic and misogynistic to a fault, the protagonist must confront sins of the past (among others, the execution of innocents) and the fact that he will never dethrone the number one, actual historical figure Albert Pierrepoint. Doesn’t help everybody he encounters on this fateful day takes delight on pointing out this detail.

Morrissey (better known as the despicable Governor in The Walking Dead) is superb as Harry, a combustible mix of entitlement and wounded pride. McDonagh touches nearly every controversial topic in England during the Sixties, and does it with remarkable wit and a generous dash of political incorrectness. Hangmen is particularly good at explaining why men cling to power and what happens when it vanishes.

The length of Hangmen (two hours and a half) can be a notch challenging, but McDonagh’s darkly funny dialogue will keep you interested. After all, that’s how long Batman v Superman was and the script of that thing was painful.

Hangmen plays this Thursday at 7 pm at Cineplex Cinemas. Encore presentation, May 21st.

Author: Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Journalist, film critic, documentary filmmaker, and sometimes nice guy. Member of the Vancouver Film Critics Circle. Like horror flicks, long walks on the beach and candlelight dinners. Allergic to cats.