Review: Crime and punishment in unsettling play

Diveen Henry as THREE in hang. Photo by The Other Richard.
Diveen Henry as THREE in hang. Photo by The Other Richard.

debbie tucker green uses lower case letters for her name and the titles of her plays.

It alerts one to a radical questioning of identity, status and received ideas.

hang, first performed in 2015, is being revived in an immaculate production at the Studio Theatre in Sheffield.

The set is cuboid in shape, a long impersonal room with a fish tank, water dispenser, air conditioning unit, a few chairs, an office table. It’s meant to be a soothing environment.

But from the start there’s an off-key note. Two officials are interviewing a woman one assumes to be a victim of violence or sexual abuse. The two, played by Marianne Oldham and Sid Sagar, are awkward and bureaucratic, almost to the point of caricature. The woman, played by Diveen Henry, is resentful and withdrawn. Is she being offered support?

There’s a hint of black comedy, a Pinter-like exchange between two hapless interrogators and an anti-hero. But gradually, as the woman becomes more forceful and articulate, one realises that, far from offering support, the officials are there simply to facilitate her right to decide the method by which her presumed attacker, who may have molested her children as well, is to die.

The woman’s testimony to the traumatic effect a single incident has had on her marriage and her family is unforgettable. The atmosphere is heightened by some clever sound effects.

The title, which gives so much away, invites the audience to look beyond the immediate circumstances of the plot and question populist ideas about democracy and the right of victims to retribution.

All three of debbie tucker green’s characters seem diminished by the procedures which have evolved to satisfy public opinion.

Taio Lawson, the director, brings together the different aspects of this unsettling play beautifully. It may be set in the future, but it has an uncanny feel of the present.

hang is on until Saturday, March 9.