Hang, the latest show from Yellow Jacket Productions, set in the near future where the death penalty has returned with an added feature, the victim is able to choose the method of execution. Focusing on the case of woman forced to make this difficult choice Hang is an interesting and engaging piece of new writing, which unfortunately suffers from circularity and a lack of engagement with its key themes.

The problem is the inability to really discuss the matter at hand, meaning the script feels like it’s going around in circles

Firstly it must be said that the acting is excellent, with all three performers shining in their respective parts, and each bring out their character’s individual quirks and personalities in such a way that enables the audience to have a clear grasp on who they are and what they want. All the while, they are further able to navigate scenes of incredible emotional complexity and pain that many other actors would stumble over. The performances are incredibly naturalistic, that is to say that they mimic real conversation as much as possible, with characters speaking over each other, stammering, repeating lines and umming and ahhing. Despite the fact this could easily come off as messy or under-rehearsed, the direction and acting make it come across as natural and fluid, making the whole performance feel more real and engaging, which is good considering the very dark and mature themes that need to be grappled with.

Whilst the performances are excellent, the script is where problems really arise from. The promotional material bills the show as Pinteresque, and it is a fairly spot on descriptor for the feel of the text. Much of the dialogue is circular, with characters repeating themselves and asking questions over and over, nothing said directly but inferred or implied and we are given no concrete grounding for where we are and what exactly is happening. This is fine, and the script does a good job of weaving information naturally into the dialogue to give the audience just enough to know roughly what is going on.

The problem is the inability to really discuss the matter at hand, meaning the script feels like it’s going around in circles, almost like it’s dragging its feet. The first half of the play in particular feels much longer than it has any right too, as the jokes about the benign bureaucracy of the officials in particular overstay their welcome. Further the main selling point of the show, the decision of what method to choose to execute the criminal, only appears in the play’s final stretch and in all honesty feels unnecessary.

The themes the play addresses - loss of innocence, victimhood, and most importantly recovery from trauma - are all really addressed without it and the decision features very little in these discussions to the point where I forgot at one point that it was even the point of the exercise. This is shame as the idea raises all sorts of questions about retributive justice, revenge and whether punishment is in any form a good way to deal with crime, but these are not addressed and the show feels in the end almost incomplete without addressing the issues its very concept raises.

In the end Hang is an interesting show with wonderful performances that, at least for this reviewer, misses out on the opportunity to be even more engaging. 

Reviews by Joseph McAulay

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The Blurb

Pinter-esque at times, Hang is set in the near future where the death penalty has returned to the UK, with a twist. Shot through with dark humour, it dramatises the inadequacy of words and the impossibility of saying or doing the right thing in extreme circumstances. It follows one woman's inner turmoil as she comes to a decision that she must live with forever. She is guided by officials for whom squaring the procedural protocols and human empathy does not come easily. From Yellow Jacket Productions – a newly formed company of 2016 graduates from The Poor School.