Arts,  Entertainment

Review of Hangmen at Royal Court

In Bruges writer/ director Martin McDonagh brings his viciously dark comedy Hangmen to Royal Court.

The story takes place on the day hanging is abolished at a gloomy Oldham pub run by England’s second best hangman Harry Wade, played with Northern bravado by the excellent David Morrisey. The plot becomes increasingly sinister when a menacing stranger enters the pub and leaves Harry’s domestic life hanging in the balance.


The absurdly ordinary pub locals, including an incompetent copper and a deaf simpleton, are hilariously brought to life by a stellar cast clearly enjoying themselves. The characters are brilliantly drawn with the play revealing their bravado, insecurities and the disturbing actions they’ll take when pushed. A spellbinding performance by Johnny Flynn as the menacing stranger captivates us as the plot takes a series of dark turns.

McDonagh’s naturalistic dialogue is the real star of this piece with its frequent one-liners reducing the audience to hysterics. “If you’d have just cooperated you could’ve been dead by now”, a prisoner about to be hanged is told.


Matthew Dunster’s direction is remarkable, with the stage’s slow ascension post-opening scene, being truly memorable. The dialogue at the start of each scene begins immediately, throwing the audience into the scene and never letting them go.

The finale is horrific, hilarious and poignant, subtly revealing the flaws of the death penalty and the insecurities and redundancy of its second best enforcer.

Hangmen gets a West End transfer, running at the Wyndham’s Theatre from 1 December to 5 March. I heavily recommend seeing it.


Written by Martin Stocks | @Stocks1986

Read Martin’s comedic blog How to Man-Manage your Manager in a job you hate or about his recent dating disasters.