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Hang by Debbie Tucker Green at Tower Theatre

Spoiler Alert for this review!

Members of the audience are given a visitor’s pass along with an information leaflet. The latter, to the best of my recollection (both pass and leaflet had to be returned on departure), didn’t say anything more onerous than listing the various colour passes in the building, and all the usual bits and bobs about photography not being permitted and mobile telephones needing to be switched off, and so on. After being ‘frisked’ (best just to go along with it, nobody will actually touch you), the audience enters what I will call a ‘secure Government building’. I arrived later than I anticipated, but nonetheless before the show started – thanks, Transport for London. I only mention this as I don’t know if everyone was escorted in a manner (sort of) befitting a secure building, as I was, or whether I was simply given a bit more assistance in a theatre where seating is usually unnumbered and unreserved, as the house was already mostly full.

Hang by Debbie Tucker Green
Hang by Debbie Tucker Green

The only named characters in this play are off-stage, the friends and family of Character Three (Valerie Paul-Kerry), except she says she doesn’t really have friends any more, the result of the psychological and emotional impact of a grievous crime committed against her and her family. In the world in which the play inhabits, the victim has been empowered to choose the method of punishment that should be given to the perpetrator. It does at least naturally follow that if there’s a Character Three, then there must be a Character One (Sara Odeen-Isbister) and a Character Two (Henry Sharples).

I’m not entirely sure what One and Two are – family liaison officers, perhaps, given how much they know about Three and her circumstances. More than a bit too much, as it turns out, and much to Three’s chagrin. Tweedleone and Tweedletwo, as I started calling them in my mind, are like those mortgage ‘advisers’ who can’t, officially, actually dispense anything that could be reasonably construed as advice. The play asks if the criminal justice system can truly be impartial, or even if it should be. When One and Two point out that some of Three’s questions are answered in some ‘literature’ (that is, an information pamphlet), Three replies that the literature would have been written by someone. That someone would have an opinion, as is their right. The logical conclusion is that true impartiality is an impossible dream.

Despite being a one-act show, it’s a slow burner – if you’ve had a particularly busy day at the office and go along to the theatre afterwards, it might be a bit of a struggle getting through this. One and Two must tread carefully, and they know it, but their attempts to delicately approach some sensitive subjects repeatedly backfire, with the play surreptitiously suggesting they might well have done better to tell it like it is in the first place rather than a softly-softly approach. The wider implications, especially in this day and age, are almost infinite.

The staging in this production is quite inventive, with the audience sitting on three sides of the auditorium. The table in which the trio have their conversation is on a stage revolve, providing a goldfish bowl effect. The sound design mostly works well, providing some realistic noises that would be expected in a large building during working hours – anything from laughter from another room to a kettle boiling. I’m not sure the swelling music during a supposedly dramatic moment was strictly necessary, and didn’t do much for me, aside from reminding me of the few minutes of an episode of Masterchef I once saw – the music rose to a crescendo, over-dramatising a relatively benign moment in proceedings. Still, a thought-provoking and subtle production that proves a show need not be bombastically loud to be powerful.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

one woman.
an unspeakable situation.
her choice.

Debbie Tucker Green’s biting satire exposes the surreality of institutional bureaucracy and forces us to confront our own prejudices and preconceptions.

In the end, this powerful play simply asks: what would you do?

ONE: Sara Odeen-Isbister
TWO: Henry Sharples
THREE: Val Paul-Kerry
Production Team
Director: Ruth Sullivan
Set Design: Phillip Ley
Lighting Design: Samuel Littley
Sound Design: Ruth Sullivan

Stage Manager: Laurence Tuerk
Assistant Director : Mya Onwugbonu
Deputy Stage Manager: David East
Sound Operator: Chris Shiel
Set Construction and Get-In : Keith Syrett, John McSpadyen, Alex Burton, Alexander Kampmann and members of the cast and crew

by Debbie Tucker Green
Directed by Ruth Sullivan

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