Hangings used to be public spectacles but, as condemned horse thief Ludley finds out, the felon has long since gone to his grave unnoticed by no one other than the hangman himself.
Lewis “Ludley” Thornhill resorts – appropriately – to gallows humour , describing his sentence as “a bit of an over-reaction” as he awaits his fate in a cell shared with fellow convict Alistair whom he taunts as the “old man”.
Rachel Garnet’s play is set in Victorian York, though the place is of little importance as the script makes little reference to it and the unchanging stage comprises merely of a bed, a tiny prison window and a wooden stool.
From their initial sparring the two cellmates develop a bond over their past lives which takes a key twist when Ludley is offered a stay of execution in exchange for filling a vacancy as the hangman for his new friend who is reluctant to reveal the reason why he has been condemned to die.
Per Carminger, as the younger man, drops the swaggering and self-deprecating black humour to confront the terrible choice facing him.
Carminger adopts a convincing vulnerability, while Kofi Dennis as Alistair delivers a moving explanation as to why he is really facing the noose. It exposes the real message of the play, that social injustices can be a matter of life and death but are still worth the fight. As he says: ‘If you are going to stand for something, you also have to be willing to fall for it.”
The Space, Hill Place (venue 38) until 26 August (50 mins)