If you can trust anyone to execute a black comedy, it’s Martin McDonagh. The Irish playwright is an undoubted master of the genre, with an enviable back catalogue which includes The Pillowman, The Cripple of Inishmaan, The Lieutenant of Inishmore and In Bruges. Hangmen is a worthy addition to his collection, offering a fascinating insight into the dark absurdities of a death-fixated culture
The play is staged in the round with a pleasing and teasing contrast between the artifice stage convention and informality. The gestures towards setting are practical and functional and do not distract from the verbal duelling of the players, which is the heart and centre of the action. While there have been several productions in the USA, this play has had only one previous outing here, and for the quality and intensity of the writing and acting it deserves a long and successful run.
Christopher Luscombe’s very funny version of the Beatrice/Benedick show complete with magnificent, period set (Simon Highlett), some fabulous costumes, Nigel Hess’ delightful music and Jenny Arnold’s joyful movement. Setting the play in the post-World War 1 period works nicely; the sense of changing times is entirely appropriate. It’s a gentle but frisky time and you can almost hear the approach of the flappers.