THE HARD MAN
by Tom McGrath and Jimmy Boyle.
Finborough Theatre above The Finborough Arms 118 Finborough Road To 18 March 2014.
Sun, Mon 7.30pm Tue 2pm.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 847 1652 (24hr no booking fee).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 9 March.
Trip down a memory lane stuffed with muggers.
Two writers are credited for this 1977 play; one of them, under lightly veiled disguise, is its subject. Jimmy Boyle was serving time for murder in Barlinnie prison when he took up a new career as a writer and artist. Seeing his alter ego incarnated by Martin Docherty, it’s both amazing and understandable.
For Johnny Byrne is a ruthless, instinctively violent man who will take revenge and turn on allies if he suspects treachery or disrespect. Anyone – boss, girlfriend or debtor, come in for bruises and woundings.
It’s a document of the last days of the Gorbals; yet an age where people are pursued for impossible payday loans and water-boarding is used to get information from society’s enemies, has nothing to learn from the bad old days.
Byrne frames the action by emphasising it’s his version of events, and undermines easy psychology by pointing-out his mother gave him plenty of affection. Yet, as his sidekicks reappear in the second act as prison officers, and as the authorities take shortcuts and revenge against him, it becomes clear that sticks and straps create the monsters who prowl the streets as much as they induce conformity.
A few moments of social comment now seem simplistic. Otherwise, the swift-moving scenes, bound by Johnny’s commentary, create visceral pictures of violence on the street and in prison. Mark Dominy’s lethal production never indulges the violence, but doesn’t hide its existence in these lives.
Glasgow accents, rhythms and emphases are caught in the speech better than most English productions manage. It’s all well-played, and while Jack McMillan and Adam Harley seem rather well-fed and cherubic in appearance, their acting as Byrne’s sidekicks is precise in its eagerness to follow their leader.
Ross Dunsmore’s prisoner, Mochan, has the defeated sense of someone made significant by helping a hard man. Docherty, meanwhile, stretches every muscle, hardens the face’s determination, lashes-out with blows or laughs equally, furious at his own lack of emotional control, embodying the determination that smears his own body with excrement, and which will – in the unwritten third act – help him step to a new life.
Lizzie/Carole/Woman’s Voice: Ruth Milne.
Maggie/Maw/Woman With Archie/Bar Woman/Didi: Sarah Waddell.
Johnny Byrne: Martin Docherty.
Slugger/Renfrew: Jack McMillan.
Bandit/Johnstone: Adam Harley.
Deadeye/Archie/Kelly/Policeman/Clerk/Mochan: Ross Dunsmore.
Big Danny/Policeman/Lewis/Commando/Paisley: Ross F Sutherland.
Director: Mark Dominy.
Designer: Mike Lees.
Lighting: Charlie Lucas.
Sound: Max Pappenheim.
Fight director: Ronin Traynor.
Assistant director: Jonny Kelly.