The Standard Short Long Drop

Ticking Clock Theatre brings to life the grim days of the Victorian hangman at the Space Triplex Studio in The Standard Short Long Drop, a fascinating play set in the cell of two prisoners awaiting execution.

A captivating drama rafted with finesse

Lewis "Ludley" Thornhill, is young man condemned to death for stealing a horse, allegedly. But in a world where there is a shortage of hangmen the prison authorities offer him a stay of execution if he will tie the rope and be his cellmate’s hangman. It’s an offer he can’t refuse, not being one to look a gift horse in the mouth. But between accepting the deal and despatching his mate, he still has to share the cell with him, while wresting with his conscious and the morality of saving his own life at the cost of another’s. The doomed man is the enigmatic Alistair, whose contradictions, evasions and devious meanderings often make the the dialogue reminiscent of Pinter’s. In between trying to discover the truth of Alistair’s life and crimes, the pair grapple with issues of social class and the cost of living and ponder the challenges of being, in their eyes, just men in an unjust world.

Who performs this might depend on which day you see it. The regular casting is Per Carminger as Ludley and Kevin Wathen as Alistair, but Kofi Dennis also plays both roles: as Alistair to Carminger and Ludley to Wathen, which he did on this occasion. Wathen’s maturity as an actor shines through his commanding performance. His sense of pace and timing make for some playful moments as he twists the conversations with Ludley and creates an air anticipation that leaves us wondering as to where he’s going next in the game of words and blind alleys. Dennis responds but creates a figure who is often lost in Alistair’s confusing responses; a simpler man who is clearly not used to dealing with the abstract and people who are not straightforward and forthcoming. They make an intriguing pair.

Both actors clearly relish the complex dynamics in Rachel Garnet’s script which director Natasha Rickman has made into a captivating drama crafted with finesse, allowing the words to reign supreme and the movement to reflect the confines of the cell and the tense atmosphere between the two men.

The story might be from a bygone age but it resonates today in this all-round delightful production of The Standard Short Long Drop.

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Reviews by Richard Beck

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The Blurb

In York, 1885, Lewis "Ludley" Thornhill, is a young man condemned to die. His luck seems to change when he is offered a stay of execution but only if he will serve as the hangman for his cellmate, Alistair. Over their last days together, Ludley tries to get to the bottom of Alistair's mysterious past and supposed crimes. The Standard Short Long Drop is an exploration of class, cost of living, and the ever-looming threat of the end framed by the final days of two unlikely friends.

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