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Hangmen (play)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Hangmen Play.jpg
Written byMartin McDonagh
Date premiered18 September 2015 (2015-09-18)
Place premieredRoyal Court Theatre, London
Original languageEnglish

Hangmen is a play by the British-Irish playwright Martin McDonagh. It received its world premiere at the Royal Court Theatre, London, in September 2015, before transferring to the West End's Wyndham's Theatre.[1] The play was directed by Matthew Dunster, designed by Anna Fleischle, and featured David Morrissey and Reece Shearsmith among others. It was universally acclaimed by theatre critics, and was nominated for numerous awards including the Olivier Awards, Critics' Circle Theatre Awards and the Evening Standard Theatre Awards.[2] For its U.S. premiere in 2018 at Off-Broadway's Atlantic Theater Company, Hangmen won the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Foreign Play.[3]

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After a 1963 prologue showing British executioner Harry Wade at work, hanging a man, Hennessy, who goes to his grave proclaiming his innocence and pronouncing a curse on Harry, Hangmen flashes forward to 1965 in a town in northern England. The action centers around Harry, who we discover is the second-best hangman in the land. Harry owns a pub that he also lives above with his wife, Alice, and his fifteen-year-old daughter, Shirley. Harry is contending with the abolition of hanging in Britain while the pub is filled with cronies and sycophants, as well as a journalist who is trying to interview Harry about the abolition. Despite continually protesting that he has nothing to say on the record, Harry eventually takes the journalist upstairs and gives him an extensive interview, complete with disparaging remarks about the number-one hangman in England, named Pierrepont. A smiling but menacing stranger named Mooney comes to the pub and stirs up some trouble, causing consternation among Harry and his cronies. Mooney inquires if there are any rooms about to let, and Alice offers him a room upstairs. But when Alice tries to call his references, Mooney explodes. Mooney also creepily flirts with Harry's daughter, Shirley, who later appears to go missing.

Over the next day or so, Mooney toys with Harry and leads him and his wife to believe that Mooney has kidnapped their daughter, Shirley. We learn that Mooney is in cahoots with Syd, one of the men in the bar and Harry's assistant hangman whom Harry has always treated with contempt. Syd is conspiring with Mooney to take Harry down a peg, but it becomes clear that Mooney may have more on his mind than just scaring Harry. Mooney's taunting eventually pushes Harry and his cronies to put a noose around his neck and stand him on a chair to force him to reveal Shirley's whereabouts. Suddenly, Pierrepont, the best hangman in England, storms into the bar to confront Harry about the disparaging remarks Harry made about Pierrepont in the paper. This forces Harry and his crew to hide the now choking Mooney behind a curtain. When Pierrepont eventually leaves, Harry and company discover Mooney has been hanged behind the curtain, which was apparently Mooney's goal all along. Shirley returns to the bar, completely unharmed. The play ends with Harry and his friends soberly reflecting on what they have done, while Harry is also forced to deal with the justification of the hanging he performed at the very beginning of the play.

Production history

Original 2015 cast of Hangmen
Original 2015 cast of Hangmen

Hangmen is written by playwright Martin McDonagh.[4] The play is set primarily in Oldham[5] during 1965[6] and centres around the abolition of the death penalty in the United Kingdom.[7] On 15 July 2015, it was announced by artistic director Vicky Featherstone,[8] that the play would receive its world premiere as part of the Royal Court Theatre's autumn 2015 season.[9] It marked McDonagh's first London play since 2003, when The Pillowman debuted at the National Theatre.[10] The play began previews on 10 September 2015,[11] with an official opening night on 18 September,[12] booking for a limited period until 10 October.[13]

The play is directed by Matthew Dunster, with fight direction by Kate Waters,[14] design by Anna Fleischle,[15] lighting design by Joshua Carr[16] and sound design by Ian Dickinson.[17] Following its premiere production the play transferred to the West End's Wyndham's Theatre, where it began previews on 1 December 2015, with its official opening night on 7 December,[18] booking until 5 March 2016.[19] A typical performance ran two hours and thirty minutes, including one interval.[12]

Hangmen was published by Faber and Faber on 17 September 2015[20] and received a National Theatre Live broadcast on 3 March 2016.[21]

An encore broadcast was shown at selected Vue Cinemas across the UK on 22 March 2016.

The Royal Court production transferred to Off-Broadway at the Atlantic Theater Company in New York from 18 January to 4 March 2018,[22] with original cast members Reece Shearsmith, Sally Rogers and Johnny Flynn returning.[23]

The play was scheduled to open on Broadway at the John Golden Theatre on 19 March 2020, but the run was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic after thirteen previews.[24][25] In February 2022, it was announced that the play was once again scheduled to premiere at the John Golden Theatre on April 21 of that year, with previews beginning April 8. The production saw most of the 2020 cast return, with the exception of Dan Stevens as Mooney, Mark Addy as Harry and Ewen Bremner as Syd, replaced respectively by Alfie Allen, David Threlfall and Andy Nyman.[26] The production closed on June 18, 2022.[27]

Principal roles and original cast

Character 2015 Royal Court cast[28] 2015-16 West End cast[17] 2018 Off-Broadway cast 2020 Broadway cast 2022 Broadway cast
Harry David Morrissey Mark Addy David Threlfall
Mooney Johnny Flynn Dan Stevens Alfie Allen
Syd Reece Shearsmith Andy Nyman Reece Shearsmith Ewan Bremner Andy Nyman
Alice Sally Rogers Tracie Bennett
Shirley Bronwyn James Gaby French
Clegg James Dryden Owen Campbell
Inspector Fry Ralph Ineson Craig Parkinson David Lansbury Jeremy Crutchley
Bill Graeme Hawley Tony Hirst Richard Hollis
Charlie Ryan Pope Billy Carter Ryan Pope
Arthur Simon Rouse John Horton
Pierrepoint John Hodgkinson Maxwell Caulfield John Hodgkinson
Hennessy Josef Davies Gilles Geary Josh Goulding
Guard Mark Rose Maxwell Caulfield Richard Hollis
Ryan Pope

Critical reception

The play has received positive reviews from critics.[29][30][31][32][33][34][35]

The show won for best play and best set design at the 2016 Laurence Olivier Awards as well as being nominated in the best director category. It also won best play and best designer at the Critics' Circle Theatre Awards 2015 [36] and best design at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards 2015.[37][38]

Awards and nominations

Original London production

Year Award Category Nominee Result Ref.
2015 Critics' Circle Theatre Award Best New Play Martin McDonagh Won [39]
Best Designer Anna Fleischle Won
Evening Standard Theatre Award Best Play Martin McDonagh Nominated [40]
Best Designer Anna Fleischle Won
2016 Laurence Olivier Award Best New Play Won [41]
Best Director Matthew Dunster Nominated
Best Set Design Anna Fleischle Won
South Bank Sky Arts Award Theatre Won [42]
WhatsOnStage Award Best New Play Nominated [43]
Best Supporting Actor in a Play Johnny Flynn Nominated

Original Broadway production

Year Award Category Nominee Result Ref.
2022 Drama League Award Outstanding Production of a Play Nominated [44]
Outstanding Direction of a Play Matthew Dunster Nominated
Theatre World Award Gaby French Won [45]
Tony Awards Best Play Nominated [46]
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play David Threlfall Nominated
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play Alfie Allen Nominated
Best Scenic Design of a Play Anna Fleischle Nominated
Best Lighting Design of a Play Joshua Carr Nominated


  1. ^ "Theatre is never going to be edgy in the way I want it to be". The Guardian. 13 September 2015. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  2. ^ Clapp, Susannah. " 'Hangmen' review – a tremendous, terrifying return by Martin McDonagh" The Guardian, 27 September 2015
  3. ^ Rooney, David (3 May 2018). "'Mary Jane,' 'Hangmen' Take New York Drama Critics' Circle Honors". Hollywood Reporter.
  4. ^ "Review: 'Hangmen' Is a Triumphant Return for Martin McDonagh". The New York Times. 23 September 2015. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
  5. ^ "Hangmen at Royal Court, SW1". The Times. 19 September 2015. Retrieved 16 March 2016.
  6. ^ ""Hangmen" plays on the British fascination, and revulsion, with capital punishment". The Economist. 23 September 2015. Retrieved 16 March 2016.
  7. ^ "The truth still hurts: the enduring gallows humour of Hangmen". The Guardian. 30 December 2015. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  8. ^ "In Bruges director Martin McDonagh returns to Royal Court with new play". The Guardian. 15 July 2015. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  9. ^ "Martin McDonagh's Hangmen play leads Royal Court season". BBC News. 15 July 2015. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  10. ^ "Martin McDonagh play features in new Royal Court season". Whats On Stage. 15 July 2015. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  11. ^ "Morrissey, Shearsmith and Cattrall cast in Royal Court season". Whats On Stage. 17 July 2015. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
  12. ^ a b "Hangmen". Royal Court Theatre. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
  13. ^ "Hangmen (Royal Court)". Whats On Stage. 20 September 2015. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
  14. ^ "Hangmen Creative Team". Broadway World. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
  15. ^ "Let's talk about sets: Anna Fleischle on Hangmen". Whats On Stage. 4 December 2015. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
  16. ^ "For 'Hangmen' and 'Escaped Alone,' Connecting Threads in London". The New York Times. 14 February 2016. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
  17. ^ a b McDonagh, Martin (17 September 2015). Hangmen. Faber and Faber. p. 4. ISBN 978-0571328871.
  18. ^ "Martin McDonagh's Hangmen gets West End transfer". The Stage. 2 October 2015. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
  19. ^ "Martin McDonagh's Hangmen to transfer to the West End". Whats On Stage. 2 October 2015. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
  20. ^ McDonagh, Martin (17 September 2015). Hangmen. Faber and Faber. ISBN 978-0571328871.
  21. ^ "Hangmen NT Live". National Theatre Live. 3 March 2016. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  22. ^ "Highlights From Atlantic Theater Company's 2017-18 Season". The New York Times. 1 May 2017. Retrieved 17 January 2018.
  23. ^ "Royal Court's HANGMEN Casts U.S. Premiere at Atlantic Theater". Broadway World. 27 October 2017. Retrieved 17 January 2018.
  24. ^ Evans, Greg (18 November 2019). "Martin McDonagh's Olivier-Winning 'Hangmen' Sets Date With Broadway". Deadline. Retrieved 18 November 2019.
  25. ^ Meyer, Dan (20 March 2020). "Hangmen Will Not Return to Broadway". Playbill. Retrieved 20 March 2020.
  26. ^ Martin McDonagh’s ‘Hangmen’ Sets Broadway Return with Alfie Allen, David Threlfall Deadline Hollywood, February 1, 2022
  27. ^ HANGMEN Enters Final Weeks of Performances Broadway World, May 27, 2022
  28. ^ McDonagh, Martin (17 September 2015). Hangmen. Faber and Faber. p. 11. ISBN 978-0571328871.
  29. ^ "Play about the last public executioners in Britain is a flawless treat". The Independent. 21 September 2015. Retrieved 16 March 2016.
  30. ^ "A tremendous, terrifying return by Martin McDonagh". The Guardian. 27 September 2015. Retrieved 16 March 2016.
  31. ^ "Hangmen at the Royal Court Theatre". Daily Express. 25 September 2015. Retrieved 16 March 2016.
  32. ^ "Hangmen, Royal Court, review: 'pitch-perfect'". The Telegraph. 18 September 2015. Retrieved 16 March 2016.
  33. ^ "The best new play of the year". The Telegraph. 9 December 2015. Retrieved 16 March 2016.
  34. ^ "Hangmen, theatre review: Blackest of black comedies". London Evening Standard. 8 December 2015. Retrieved 16 March 2016.
  35. ^ "Hangmen review round-up". The Stage. 10 December 2015. Retrieved 16 March 2016.
  36. ^ "This year the critics also awarded Hangmen and Bend It Like Beckham". Whats On Stage. 26 January 2016. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  37. ^ a b "Evening Standard Theatre Awards 2015: Who won and why". Evening Standard. 23 November 2015. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  38. ^ "Nicole Kidman wins best actress at the Evening Standard awards". The Telegraph. 22 November 2015. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  39. ^ "2015 Results | Critics' Circle Theatre Awards". 28 November 2016. Retrieved 6 December 2020.
  40. ^ "Evening Standard Theatre Awards: Full list of nominees". Evening Standard. 2 November 2015. Retrieved 6 December 2020.
  41. ^ "Olivier Awards 2016: The winners". BBC News. Retrieved 4 April 2016.
  42. ^ "Hangmen wins South Bank Sky Arts Award". Retrieved 9 June 2016.
  43. ^ "Benedict Cumberbatch and Nicole Kidman take home WhatsOnStage Awards". Retrieved 4 April 2016.
  44. ^ "2022 Drama League Awards Nominations Announced- Full List!". BroadwayWorld. 25 April 2022. Retrieved 26 April 2022.
  45. ^ Theater, Author: New York (6 May 2022). "Theatre World Awards 2022". New York Theater. Retrieved 6 May 2022. {{cite web}}: |first= has generic name (help)
  46. ^ "2022 Tony Award Nominations". Tony Awards. 9 May 2022. Retrieved 9 May 2022.
This page was last edited on 23 February 2023, at 13:22
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