“Insightful, profound, and at times satirical, the production provides a rare insight to the bureaucratic monotony of legal decision-making and the scarring lack of empathy of the profession…

The Durham Union Debating Chambers see host to Fourth Wall Theatre’s newest production of hang by Debbie Tucker Green, in collaboration with the Durham Law Society. Insightful, profound, and at times satirical, the production provides a rare insight to the bureaucratic monotony of legal decision-making and the scarring lack of empathy of the profession.

Directed by Megan Dunlop, and assisted by Anna Ao and Olivia Clouting, the space of the chambers is effectively used to evoke realism of a judicial office with a minimalist backdrop. With a small, rectangular centre resembling a thrust stage, one can feel the intensity and emotions of the actors up close as they deliver their monologues of despair and protocol. The lighting is also simple and minimalistic, with a singular spotlight, though differing colours are employed to indicate a variety of torture methods. I do feel the directing team could have experimented with a larger palette of colours and lighting angles to highlight differing moods and atmosphere. Nevertheless, the decision to use a unique performing space while maximising its thematic significance has to be commended.

The narrative of hang is centred around an anonymous black woman named Three, who has to decide on the torture method of the male perpetrator who hurt her family, while being presented with the dilemma to open the Pandora’s Box (and part Chekhov’s Gun) of a letter written by him. Alexa Thanni commands an excellent range of anxiety and distress in the character, capturing the essence of trauma while being shaken by the relentless demands of bureaucracy. With clear projection and vivid facial expressions, Thanni shines as a beacon of emotion and truth against the moral corruptions of law. Her gradual loss of composure conveys the stories of suffering often ignored under the law, painting a teary and blood-stained portrait of a broken and mangled family long due for justice. She is constantly pestered by One and Two, legal bureaucrats who only pursue efficiency and clinical decision making above all else. Tilly Bridgeman and Charlie Fitzgerald offer differing but complimentary stereotypes of the profession. Bridgeman’s talkativeness and argumentative nature brings a sense of pressure and urgency, often contrasted by the calm and calculating Two of Fitzgerald. If I had one note, I’d say they could have offered more variation in pace and pause, adding more tension to the situation and allowing Three’s occasional interruptions of silence to feel more profound. That said, their chemistry is entertaining to watch, allowing notes of dark humour to permeate the graveness of the situation, while being emotionally unfazed at the face of tragedy and grief in pursuit of a decision and resorting to fraudulence to speed up a verdict.

All in all, hang is a great production, bringing the dark sides of the justice system to light in a beautiful and historic performance venue. I do hope this is the start of more collaborations between DST companies and non DST societies, combining their resources to stage excellent productions that tell a wider breadth of stories that are often ignored.

By Linus Cheung

Photo Credits: Fourth Wall Theatre