The Hard Man, King's Theatre, Review

Submitted by Alex Eades on Thu, 7 Apr '11 9.32pm
Rating (out of 5)
Show details
Scottish Theatres Consortium
Phillip Breen (Director), Tom McGrath (Writer), Max Jones (Set & Costume Design), Tina Machugh (Lighting Design), Graham Sutherland (Sound Design), Renny Krupinski (Fight Director), Jackie Holt (Wardrobe)
Alex Ferns (Johnny Byrne), Nicky Elliott (Slugger/Renfrew), Iain Robertson (Bandit/Johnstone), Paul Morrow (Deadeye/Archie), Stewart Porter (Big Danny), Alison O'Donnell (Lizzie/Carole), Cara Kelly (Maggie/Maw)
Running time

Stepping off a train onto a foreign platform can, even to the most experienced traveller, spark a youthful sense of adventure. For a blink of an eye, Ayr can seem like an untouched, mystical wonderland with potentially endless opportunities lurking around every corner....okay, perhaps that’s going too far.

But when my feet hit the cold, damp concrete of Glasgow Central Station, I can’t  help but notice a stabbing feeling of dread deep within me. To say that my relationship with Glasgow is a rotten one is a truly wild understatement. It resembles that of a small, pram bound child and a rottweiler with syphilis.

But there are many stories to tell of this wild town, for good, evil and sometimes a bit of both. Tom McGrath’s 1977 play, The Hard Man, a fictitious account of the notorious Jimmy Boyle’s life of crime on the streets of Glasgow, is perhaps one of those that is a bit of both... perhaps.

McGrath was fascinated by the violence of Laurel and Hardy, with his first play being about those two lovable screen legends. With The Hard Man, all the laughs are set aside and the violence becomes the main topic of conversation.

With this new production, the influences of those movies are everywhere. The rhythm, the beat and even the occasional laugh. The fights are choreographed into something of beauty. Of something to be seen and admired. Much like the criminals themselves.

The themes of violence, power, corruption and debt are abundant throughout and hit home with a mighty sucker punch here in 2011.

The performances are fantastic, with Alex Ferns bringing an ice cold menace to the lead role that you could feel right at the back of the Kings. There were times that I thought he was going to leap off the stage and begin a murderous rampage. Truly unnerving and utterly brilliant.

Powerful, violent, bleak and Gobsmacking, this is one cracking show. Though you may not want to walk home alone....especially if you're Glasgow bound.

Showing at The King's til 3rd April