Pub life in 1960s’ England is woven into ‘Hangmen’

When Britain abolishes hangings, Harry Wade finds himself out of work and slips into life as a pub owner, living above his place of business with his family.

A pub in 1960s’ England was the heart of British life according to Tom Colechin, who is making his solo directorial debut in Martin McDonagh’s Hangmen at Le Chat Noir. And that’s the backdrop for this play.

“Just reading straight off the page, you a get that sense of the way pubs in particular were such a staple in the community,” said Colechin, a native Londoner. “Back in the day, that was the church.”

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Colechin grew up hearing stories about pub life from his parents, and he was able to make his portrayal of the scene as accurate as possible just by picking up the phone.

“There were even times I’d call me mum up when reading the script and say ‘How do you pronounce this?’ It’s been so long since I moved over here. I had to remind myself how English people say things as opposed to Americans,” he said.

And if theater-goers look closely at the set, they might be able to spot a photo of Colechin’s mum and dad in their neighborhood pub during that era.

Hangmen is a dark comedy and is true to Le Chat’s out of the box forays into theater.  This isn’t the first McDonagh play Le Chat has staged. The company brought his Pillowman to the stage in 2008 and The Beauty Queen of Leenane in 2009.

McDonagh brings an edgy wit to the script, which has multiple layers.

 “He excels at the ability to put his characters into a situation that there’s no way that it can get any crazier. But before you know it, it’s gone up five levels of crazy., said Colechin. “On the surface, it’s a play about a hangman coming to terms with retirement  and the abolition of hanging in England, but there’s still something in the basement of Harry Wade and that comes to light,” he said.

 The play also brings out some of the differences and related bad blood between those living in the north and the south, he said.

Colechin has an all-star cast in Hangmen including Rick Davis, Krys Bailey, Michael Fortino and Amy Patton.

The majority of the cast are veterans, but Colechin said there are a couple of newcomers as well.

Hangmen will be at 8 p.m. May 12-13, 18-20 at Le Chat Noir, 304 Eighth St. For tickets, visit its website.  

Charmain Z. Brackett is the publisher of Augusta Good News. Reach her at Sign up for the newsletter here.

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