This play by Howard Barker first appeared on stage in the late 70s and to a certain extent still reflects on political corruption today. The plot revolves around the burning down of Middenhurst Prison and the attempts between various civil servants, warders and politicians to hide the truth.
A scene from The Hang of the Gaol at Brockley Jack theatre, London
Barker’s text, even nearly 40 years on, is still difficult to absorb, but thankfully an accomplished cast imbibe the caustic dialogue with a graceful rhythm that brings the piece to life without loosing its power. Barker still has the power to shock but it is a misguided company who make this the focus of his work.
There are a couple of stand-out performances, particularly from Julian Bird as shifty cabinet minister Stagg and Alan Thorpe, stealing every scene as the vociferous civil servant, Jardine. Newcomers Toby Liszt as Ponting and Matthew Forsythe as Whip bring an interesting timbre to the casting while Anne-Marie Hughes and Maggi-Anne Lowe add warmth despite the revealing nature of their conversation.
There are occasional moments where director Doug Rollins appears to have lost his way with the staging, but it rarely detracts from the growing tension and Christina Soru’s set design compliments the piece admirably.