Hangmen cast photoDo our beliefs effect the world? Maybe they don’t affect what’s going on in Asia, or even our own country or province or city at large. So let’s narrow our sights a bit. Do our beliefs effect our lives and the lives of the people connected to us? It seems obvious that they do. If you believe your partner is cheating on you that’s going to affect your behaviour and the way you speak to your partner, right? If you believe that then you’re far more likely to try to poison them than if you don’t. Even our smallest beliefs seem to affect our lives. You go to the washroom believing there’s a full roll of toilet paper there, so you don’t bring any with you. But it turns out you’re wrong. Now you’ve got a little personal crisis to attend to.

If we accept that our beliefs effect our lives and the lives of the people connected to us in whatever way, then it seems sensible to ask ourselves what standards we use to decide whether or not to believe something. Someone offers you information – could be a rumour or gossip, could be some purported scientific fact, or something about the weather. How do you decide whether to accept that information as true, which means letting it enter your mind and become a part of that gigantic complicated web of beliefs that (in part anyway) defines who you are and distinguishes you from everyone else? Let’s be honest: most of the time our standards are really, really low. Humans are trusting by nature; even human who don’t believe they’re trusting are pretty naïve about the information they accept as truth. It’s part of being a member of a social species so to some degree we can’t really help it. Usually we don’t even think about this until something terrible happens that forces us to confront the reality that we’ve believed something false or made a terrible mistake because we believed something fictional.


The ins and outs of how our beliefs influence our actions, the terrible things that can happen when we believe false information, the consequences of withholding true information from other people, and the complicated problems we create by manipulating other people into believing fictions over truths – these are the themes that playwright and filmmaker Martin McDonagh explores in nearly everything he writes. In The Pillowman McDonagh explored what can happen when the authorities hold false beliefs about the people over whom they have power. In The Beauty Queen of Leenane he explored what happens when true information is withheld from somebody, in this case leading to shocking violence. Post Productions produced these plays in 2019 and 2020, respectively, and now the company is poised to bring another intense story about McDonagh’s favourite themes to the stage of The Shadowbox Theatre from October 6 to 21, 2023.

Hangmen focuses on the lives of Harry Wade (Joey Ouellette) and his family – wife Alice (Cheri Scratch) and daughter Shirley (Rachel Hillis). The family owns a little pub in Oldham, England. For years Alice basically ran the pub herself while Harry worked as one of the country’s top hangmen. Or maybe he was the country’s top hangman. It could have been Albert Pierrepoint (James Neely), but don’t let Harry hear you say that.

Harry hung his last man, James Hennessey (Luke Boughner) in 1963, with the help of assistant Syd Armfield (Shaun Mazzocca). Soon afterward England abolished the death penalty. Now Harry works full time at the pub with his family, a smaller sort of life that makes him feel less important. There’s the comfort of the day-in-day-out presence of his regulars, Bill (Paul Gallo), Charlie (Eric Droski), Inspector George Fry (Gregory Girty), and Arthur (Michael K. Potter), but as agreeable as these cronies may be, the adulation of a few local drunks can’t fill the void left by the controversial end of Harry’s controversial career.

On the second anniversary of Hennessey’s execution, Harry’s life suddenly becomes complicated from several directions at once. Derek Clegg (Cody Tersigni), a journalist from Manchester, wants to interview Harry about his career even though Harry’s always prided himself on being circumspect about the details of his work as a hangman, not to mention the politics and morality of state execution. And there’s a new fellow in town, a charming yet menacing stranger named Peter Mooney (Luke Boughner), who might become a lodger at the pub, and who quickly wins the adulation of Harry’s mopey daughter Shirley. Then Syd reappears in Harry’s life bearing the terrible news that Hennessey might have been innocent, which means they’d have hanged an innocent man. There had always been rumours about Hennessey’s possible innocence. Syd seems to bring something more substantial. Just as Harry’s head is spinning with the news of this possibility, Shirley goes missing. Does her disappearance have something to do with the anniversary of Hennessey’s execution? Has she been taken by the real killer?

To get back to McDonagh’s themes, let’s ask a new question: if Harry and his friends believe Shirley’s been taken by the real killer and believe they’ve identified who that killer is. . . what will they do about it? Hangmen is an intense thriller that’s often also an absurd comedy, like McDonagh’s other stories. And just as it was with The Pillowman and The Beauty Queen of Leenane, this is one play you won’t want to miss.

Hangmen by Martin McDonagh is directed by Fay Lynn, produced by Michael K. Potter and Fay Lynn. This play is presented by Post Productions at The Shadowbox Theatre (1501 Howard Ave, corner of Howard and Shepherd) October 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20 & 21. Showtime 8:00 PM (doors open 7:30). Tickets can be purchased for $25 through postproductionswindsor.ca or at the door (cash, debit, or credit card) if seats are still available. Presented in association with Windsor Feminist Theatre.

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