Scoville Units Unite

05 May

The Hard Man

This weekend saw a bit of a diversion at Kage, a play taking part in the bar: The Hard Man. With live music accompaniment from the Victorian Trout Conspiracy.


It was written by Tom McGrath/Jimmy Boyle and this performance was by In Your Face Theatre.

The play started as soon as you arrived at the venue, continuing through the interval. You were greeted by Danny, the manager of The Wee Red Bar. The sleazy bar manager has a name which could be a mix of Dave and Kenny which obviously has no relevance at all ;). Trying to go up the stairs there’s a wee nyaff blocking it (in character).

I had arrived a bit before friends so the actors were all milling about, approaching people and chatting to them. It helped you get the characters you were away to see and helped them get in character too.

The Victorian Trout Conspiracy were playing and the part where the play starts isn’t completely clear. The actors start to have a fight whilst watching the band and then the dialogue kicks off. It was really cool, much more immersive than watching a play with the lights come on and queued MP3s of music/effects. Kenny also provided some scabby stools to be used as props for the fight scenes. One of the actresses was behind the bar pretending to work.

I was giggling slightly at the Richard Herring-esque scam idea of hosting a play in a bar, insert some scenes where you get beers and you save virtually pounds whilst spending hundreds of pounds touring.

The troupe must have been about 10 people, playing various characters, centred around the story of Johnny Byrne. The real story starts with him looking back telling you how he will show you what has happened to him, from his perspective.

Starting off as a 14 year old, bunking off school with his 2 pals, they start working for a club owner who has his fingers in drug dealing, prostitution and loan sharking. The eventual ascent to violence by Johnny is shown, with him gaining a reputation as the hard man. The depiction of Johnny’s life being punctuated with others perspective of what is going on. People gossiping in a bar about their antics. His girlfriend, he brutalises through threats, emotional abuse and violence. His friends he treats as minions with constant psychological battles with his No1. His victims he takes pleasure in meting out punishment to from beatings, disfigurement and sexual assault of their loved ones, usually accompanied by the band playing appropriate music.

The fourth wall is consistently broken, interaction with and comments on the audience, pulling you into the play. You really do feel like an observer as to what is going on rather than an audience member of the play.

Eventually the violence leads to guns and murder.

The final act shows Johnny adapting to life in prison. Beaten up by sadistic guards, he is repeatedly left a physically broken man. Grim elements of sectarianism and prison rape are introduced with large numbers of scenes liable to trigger anxiety.

The worst of the guards, Paisley, contrasts Byrne to himself. Society has produced both of these men. He sees himself as the only way to deal with Byrnes type. A cycle of violence and torture continues. The punishment route of justice is shown in it’s raw form and I would challenge anyone to not be sold on rehabilitation instead after seeing this play.

Once it ends the band carried on playing for a short while and then the actors/crew mingled with the audience speaking to us. There was someone with a camera filming the show and interviewing audience members and everyone seemed really down to earth and friendly. They had performed at the Fringe last year and are bringing Trainspotting to it this year, so I intend to pop through to see it.

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