We are in some unknown years into the future, capital punishment is legal, and the law states that the victim has the final say in how their offender is killed. Three unnamed characters are put before us. Much is uncertain and the mood is tense. Marianne Jean-Baptiste plays the unnamed number three. She is in on-going torment after being the victim of a horrific crime that is only hinted and implied to us as the audience. The details of her ordeal are left completely unknown throughout, leaving us to surmise the worst our imagination can bare. All we know is that the crime was so appalling that it affected her husband and children’s mental health and that the perpetrator now stands on death row.
We are in a modern and semi-futuristic meeting room and two fussy office staff, number one and number two, try to make the woman feel comfortable as she is here to sign her declaration on how she would like her perpetrator to be executed. We watch the two office workers, played by Claire Rushbrook and Shane Zaza, struggle to cope with the raw emotions of the woman standing before them and their attempts to make small talk are stifled by the woman’s stubborn but understandable rejections to sympathy. Their feeble efforts at comfort are awkward and jarring adding to the discomfort of the audience. Jean-Baptiste’s character is hostile and angry; still trying to cope with the day to day struggles that she has been left with after her attack and is frustrated by these trivial office workers, who have only ever dealt with situations like this during the role play section of a training day. They not only struggle to find the right words to say, but very often get it so, so wrong.
It is a painful and passionate performance by Jean-Baptiste and the raw emotions of the character are agonisingly felt by the audience. It is a careful and honest representation of a broken and suffering victim who is still desperately trying to find inner strength for her family’s sake. Her subtle hand quivers and introverted body language evoke huge sympathy even through her character’s hostile exterior.
This is the latest play written by Debbie Tucker Green. It holds surprising but poignant significance in a country where this procedure no longer exists. By withholding many of the key details within the play, Tucker Green creates an overwhelming sense of unease and suspense and I found myself on the edge of my seat at various times. However, I do wonder if the suspense was weakened slightly by the title, which takes away all uncertainty of the woman’s final choice of execution.
There is no doubt that Tucker Green has written yet another powerful and current piece of work and with at least 22 countries still using the death penalty it leaves you with much to consider. This is a powerful and engaging 70 minutes and I look forward to the next.
hang is playing at the Royal Court until 18 July. For tickets and more information, see the Royal Court website.