The beauty of Hang lies in the way it juxtaposes cold and often hilarious bureaucracy with the pain of a human experience. Its mystery is in the fact that we never really discover what that exact human experience was.
Performed by three female graduates of the Poor School in London, this production falls into none of the traps that you might expect of recent theatre graduates, except for perhaps some rather overdramatic tech decisions. Hang is a contemporary script by BAFTA award winning writer, Debbie Tucker Green. The play is described on the flyer as: ‘the near future where the death penalty has returned’ although what actually makes this the near future I’m not sure. The exact time period is unclear and the costumes do little to help. The world of Hang, from what I could glean, is a slightly dystopian one in which crimes are punished by (presumably) the victim choosing the penalty. It is never actually stated whether imprisonment is an option, or whether the victim just gets to choose from a smorgasbord of deaths, and have no doubt, there’s a fair few options. However, generally speaking this is a world just like our own and that is perhaps where Hang is the strongest, in its reality, not its dystopia.
The three characters are nameless, but they essentially fall down to the victim, the bureaucrat in charge and the bureaucrat in training. The bureaucrat in charge, played with subtlety by Kim Christie, is not bothering with the rules so much. But the bureaucrat in training (Jessica Flood) is deeply enthusiastic, and in that enthusiasm she presents a scariness, although she’s pretty funny too. Where hanging or gas chamber is a bit of an art form, and beheading or passive insertion (lethal injection) really just a matter of branding, this little bureaucrat is more excited by the stamp she gets to seal the decision with than the niceties of what the victim suffers.
The performances in this are generally strong and the slightly shaky start was possibly my fault as I arrived late and had to enter across the stage, a difficult thing for any actor to deal with. Flood is very funny and plays against the darkness of the piece very well. She’s my favourite (although she is my friend so I might be biased). Tiannah Viechweg is a powerful performer and goes through a rollercoaster of emotions in a stage space that is inches from the audience. And Christie is very strong and understated (although her hairstyle put me off as it reminded me of Leia from Star Wars). The tech is, as I noted above, a bit weird. Natural lighting and no sound effects the whole way through except for two EMOTIONAL sections where red lights and crescendos punch you in the face.
But, all in all, this is a very strong production from a new company and I think it will only get stronger as their run goes on. Hang is an interesting play, particularly in a world where the brutal repercussions of viewing people as statistics and developments are becoming increasingly clear.
Hang is running at C Nova until the 27th August.