WORTH A LOOK?: ***1/2

WHERE: Wyndham’s Theatre

WHEN: 15/12, runs to 5/3/16

What did hangmen do after the abolition of capital punishment in England in 1964? That’s the brilliant idea at the heart of Martin McDonagh’s new play although its, ahem, execution could be more compelling.

We meet the Walking Dead‘s David Morrissey (a clenched fist full of northern bluff in a bow tie) first in the condemned man’s cell and then in the Oldham pub he later works in as the action shifts to what life after hanging for a living means for those affected.

In walks southerner Johnny Flynn (pictured above, cute and awkward like a Joe Orton hero) who immediately draws suspicions with his uncomfortable interaction with the hangman’s daughter, a naive and awkward Bronwyn James.

Hangmen‘s had a fantastic run of five-star reviews, including theTelegraph which described it as ‘perhaps the most line-by-line funny play London has seen in years’, and it’s certainly funny, although perhaps laugh-out loud lacking, and conceived brilliantly.

But we missed Reece Shearsmith (who didn’t make the transfer from the Royal Court) and, perhaps because we’ve no knowledge of 1964, weren’t quite so enamoured by the faithful evocation of the period setting as others have been. The ending too just seemed a little obvious.

So Hangmen won’t be featuring in our best of 2015 lists but expect it to loom large elsewhere.

  • Picture via Facebook courtesy Royal Court. Tickets available here. Enjoyed this review? Follow its author on Twitter @NeilDurham

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