Review: Tom Hughes is on death row in Ticking, Trafalgar Studios
Review: Universally Speaking, Bread and Roses Theatre, SW4

Hangmen review or how Johnny Flynn stole the show

590x494.fitandcropJohnny Flynn. Actor, musician; I've always had a bit of a soft spot. He's never had the breadth of roles of some of my favourite actors, often playing likeable, quiet, awkward types, but he's got a certain charm on stage. So plaudits for him and casting director Amy Ball who saw Mooney in Martin McDonagh's Hangmen in him.

Mooney is a southerner who walks into the life of  Harry (David Morrissey), Britain's second best hangman, who's from Oldham. He turns up in Harry's wife's pub where the locals take a bit of dislike to what they perceive as strange 'southern' ways but Harry's wife and daughter are charmed.

It is the genius of Martin McDonagh's writing, brought to life by Flynn, that Mooney is an enigma, just as you think you've got him sussed he does something to cast doubts in your mind. McDonagh rubs it in your face, has Mooney discussing the degrees by which he is weird, whether he is creepy or scary. It works beautifully, you sit up and take notice when he's on the stage, you want him on the stage so you can laugh and be a little bit uncomfortable at the same time.

Flynn is the north star in a sky full of sparkles. I've long been a fan of Martin McDonagh's work and his brand of black, biting humour - In Bruges (film), Cripple of Inishmaan, Beauty Queen of Leenane. Hangmen is multi-layered from almost farce-like physical humour and childish cock jokes to biting irony; he has an eye for humour in the darkest corners. 

Morrissey's Harry is brilliantly straight-laced with an over-inflated sense of his own importance, fuelled by the dim-witted regulars for whom he is a bit of a celebrity. Fame is fickle though particularly when that fame is born out of a deadly profession. His wife Alice (Sally Rogers) is the brilliantly convivial landlady but with a northern, no-nonsense approach, particularly when it comes to their daughter, the mopey teenager Shirley (Bronwyn James).

Hangmen is many things. It is a macabre musing on the death penalty. It's a clash of northern and southern cultures with Mooney drawing out some of the worst of the stereotypes but his is a Pyrrhic victory. It is a comedy thriller and it is very, very good.

It finished its run at the Royal Court last night but is transferring to the Wyndhams in December and is two hours and 25 minutes including an interval.


Easy one David Morrissey was in Richard II with Mr W