The Hard Man

The life story of Jimmy Boyle, who in his younger years was a notorious criminal, was first staged back in 1977 at the Traverse. It’s the story of Glasgow’s underworld which, while saturated with criminal mentality, actually played home to people with good hearts and a sense of humanity won through bitter struggles.

This production is a tale of violence and the manipulating effects of society, alongside a justice system that reeks of unfairness has been brought vividly to life by In Your Face Theatre. Director and – owing to indisposition – lead actor Christopher Rybak has delivered a piece of immersive theatre that is completely entrancing from the moment it begins.

Despite the play celebrating it’s 40th anniversary its moral story resonates even more today in a world where knife culture continues to run amuck. Rybak has created a living world in the confines of the ‘Wee Red Bar’ that is populated by the people who exist only in Boyle’s mind. With the help of co-writer Tom McGrath, those characters now live and breathe.

Rybak gives an astounding performance as John Byrne, a man who believes he can simply take what he wishes and doesn't mind how violent he has to be in order to get it. The strong cast work hard as ensemble to create various characters with everyone except Rybak playing two or more characters with a great deal of conviction and making each one truly different and unique. Special Mention must go to Rory Speed as Bandit who plays Byrne’s henchman alongside Greg Esplin as Slugger – the only ones to present the actual consequences of what his actions achieve.

The true highlight is seeing Jessica Innes as Carole, the one woman whom Byrne loves, she spends most of the play repressed and under the heel of not only Byrne but most of the dominant males. To see her come out fighting towards the end is an inspiring moment.

With clear and clever direction, wonderful performances and gritty setting, this is a play which truly excels from the off and doesn't let go. The play is extremely adult with coarse language and sexual scenes mixing with those of abstract violence. It all builds into an production which aspires to inspire and does so with complete conviction.

This is a completely immersive theatre experience that once seen is never forgotten, both for the quality of the performances and the driving force of its writing. For those who enjoy Trainspotting and Acid House and the more recent The Wee Man, this is one unmissable production that finally allows the audience to experience what its like to sit inside a movie.

Truly original, diverse and extremely talented, In Your face Theatre deliver an unforgettable journey through one man's quest to attain what he wants by any means necessary. Do what you must to experience life in Danny’s Bar and be forever changed.

Reviews by Brett Herriot

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The Blurb

A real night at the pub experience. The true life story of notorious Glasgow gangster Jimmy Boyle in a heart-pounding violent cabaret drama. With the drinks flowing this is an unforgettable experience you may never remember.