Review: Hangman (Storefront Theatre / The Scapegoat Collective)

Hangman promotional image with entire cast

Hangman‘s Rootin’ Tootin’ Cowboy Show Could Go Deeper

So, ya wants to see a theatre show set in the Old West, about them moral type dilemmas facin’ all sort’a menfolk? Men who think they good ’cause they “the law”, and them who think they bad cause they ’bout to hang, when ain’t none of ’em innocent? Well then, you best bring ya’self down to The Storefront Theatre to see The Scapegoat Collective’s Hangman.

When I first heard of a theatre show set in the Old West, I will admit: I snickered. I launched into my “Wild West” dialogue (sampled above) and set about finding my plus one. It was easy. My companion Caryhn and I had both seen the lead, Alistair (Prince Amponsah) in The Storefront Theatre‘s Contempt a few months ago. He blew us away using little more than his eyes to communicate, and we were both excited to see more.

I’m happy to say that he – along with the rest of the cast (Alexander Thomas, Vanessa Trenton, Jon Blair, and Vince Carlin) – were well worth sitting in a too-warm theatre on a perfectly breezy Friday night (always wear layers at The Storefont!).

Not mentioned above is the puppeteer, Kaitlin Morrow, who deserves her own round of applause. The horse, the boy, and even the rat were their own characters, brought to stunning life by her skillful puppetry. One tiny at moment at the end where Braydon (Thomas) speaks to the rat was one of my favourites.

There were many intense, dramatic, and even humorous scenes played out on the authentic-looking Old West set. It felt dusty, dangerous, and dry. The Storefront Theatre is fairly small, and yet I’m always amazed by how the space gets transformed.

It was a pretty typical “all humans are both good and evil though we separate ourselves” story. There were some longer monologues – one by Winston (Trenton) in particular – that left me and Caryhn feeling confused, or like we’d failed to grasp some deeper message. We both felt that a slightly shorter runtime would have been perfect — say 60 minutes instead of 80 — and we really felt the length during those monologues (and to a lesser extent, the songs – sung beautifully by Amponsah and Morrow).

Hangman definitely drove home the “we all do bad shit, so don’t you dare judge me” point, but to me it felt a bit scattered.

The characters had obvious connections to each other, and yet there were so many stories happening at once. While a delightful presence, the boy (performed by puppeteer Morrow) was a bit confusing to me. I’m not sure if his purpose was to act as a mirror who later emerges from his shell with help from the hanged man, or if he had a deeper purpose.

In fact, a lot of the story felt like it was trying to be deeper and not really succeeding. It may be my failure to understand or interpret, but I was left feeling somewhat unsatisfied by the story. I may also be projecting my hopes of finding deeper meaning. The triumphant yet tragic ending only reinforced the confusion I was feeling.

The music – while not at all “Western” – was probably my favourite aspect and it lent a darkness that complimented the show nicely. If there was a soundtrack I would buy two copies.

Overall, I liked this show. I wish it had been a bit shorter, and I wish I’d been able to come away knowing what point the writer was specifically trying to get across, but it was definitely entertaining. I would probably see it again for the cast, puppets, and music alone.

On a side note, The Storefront Theatre is currently running a “soundproofing” campaign. Seeing this show – the last of their current season – is a great way to contribute to a wonderful indie theatre. You can also donate here.

Details

    • Hangman is playing until May 29, 2016 at The Storefront Theatre (955 Bloor St. West)
    • Shows run Wednesday to Saturday at 8pm, with an additional matinee on Sundays at 2pm
    • Ticket prices are $25, with PWYC on Wednesday May 18th and 25th, and are available online (PWYC tickets are available at the door and are subject to availability)
    • Content warning for: loud bang noises, graphic simulated violence, scents, and strong language