Hang Is Intense But Lacks Beginning And End
hang, Royal Court Theatre
Londonist Rating: ★★★☆☆
debbie tucker green’s hang follows on from truth and reconciliation, her last work at the Royal Court Theatre, with another provocative exploration of violence and consequences.
Writer and director green deliberately doles out plot points piecemeal for much of the production. Overhead strip-lighting and a stage bare but for chairs and a drinks machine cast an oppressive mood from the off. Two bureaucratic jobsworths and a visitor spend the first third of the play making painful small talk. The repetitive bantering between the unnamed threesome holds little in the way of concrete facts and could have been written by Beckett and Kafka while waiting in their local Jobcentre Plus. Only once the pleasantries are dropped, does the traumatic truth emerge.
For a writer who eschews capital letters, green knows how to shout out her point. truth and reconciliation might have used a cast of over 20 actors compared to hang’s trio but when one of them is Secrets and Lies’ Marianne Jean-Baptiste — the Oscar-nominated firebrand who decried the British acting scene before legging it to work in the States — an explosive display is guaranteed. Playing the pen pushers, Claire Rushbrook and Shane Zaza make almost-sympathetic foils and provide much of hang’s gallows humour.
Fans of films like Memento will revel in the drip-drip-drip of plot details which ensure that only those still awake by the end of hang will appreciate the full horror of what is being discussed here. There is very little in the way of exposition during the 70 minutes running time but there is also a paucity of substance and characterisation and the script’s punchy rawness belies a lack of depth in hang’s central concept.
The deeply emotional heart of this darkness is only revealed towards the end. Well, we say the end but hang lacks a real denouement — or for that matter, a real beginning. The lack of finality and the verbal padding let down the powerful acting and commendably claustrophobic set design. A thought-provoking idea does not always a great drama make. Unlike truth and reconciliation, hang is more fag packet theatre than fully-formed play.
hang continues at the Royal Court Theatre until 18 July. Tickets £10-£35. Londonist attended on a complimentary press ticket.
Last Updated 19 June 2015