A Dukes Lancaster production
Pierrepoint - The Hangman's Tale
31 January 2013 - 23 February 2013
review by Alan Chard
You might not expect a barrel of laughs or anything light-hearted when you experience a play about our last hangman, especially not in a country that has such polarised views on hanging. However, there are lots of laughs in this production which is essentially a 60 minutes monologue that is delivered by Martin Oldfield with absolute precision.
This is the first time that Pierrepoint has been delivered in the round, which is a wonderful choice because it allows Pierrepoint to wander around the spartan set and address the audience directly so you can gaze into his eyes. He invites us to share his observations of the 'client', played by Gareth Cassidy who doesn't get to say much but his body language adds greatly to the performance.
We are treated to an intimate series of revelations about the man himself and the hangman's art as details of procedure and the fine tuning of each commission are considered and woven into the monologue. Pierrepoint explains that he is a civil servant, the final chapter in a process, and as such he prides himself in giving each of his clients the best possible service by carrying out his job with meticulous precision, attention to detail and above all speed. When you consider this from the perspective of the 'client' you begin to appreciate his skill and dedication whether or not you agree with the principle.
I felt that the man really came through in the final two minutes when the condemned was taken the short distance across the stage and dispatched as Pierrepoint recited a careful procedural checklist. Here we witnessed the calm, practised art of the hangman carrying out his job, the only missing detail was the hood, but I think we can forgive that for the sake of theatrical presentation as it would certainly have reduced the impact of the moment.
I heartily recommend this production whether or not you agree with hanging, it will not change your mind, but it does provoke thoughts.
Alan Chard, February 2013