The Hard Man

by Tom McGrath and Jimmy Boyle

Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays, 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18 March 2014

“I’m a lunatic. A right bad lot. What the Judge always calls, “A menace to society”. I’m speaking to you tonight from a Scottish prison where I am serving a life-sentence for murder. What you are going to see is my life as I remember it.”

The first London production for more than 25 years

Glasgow, the 1970s. Johnny Byrne is a young schoolboy involved in petty crime and violence. But when he meets Deadeye, he soon finds himself known as a ‘hard man’ and being convicted of murder. But it is when he is serving his sentence in Barlinnie that the real acts of brutality occur…

Based on the life of Jimmy Boyle, co-writer of the play and – at the time of its production – still a prisoner in Barlinnie Special Unit, The Hard Man is his compelling and shocking study of a brutalised man in a brutalising system.

One of multi-award-winning playwright Tom McGrath’s most enduring works, The Hard Man now receives its first performances in London since 1985 in a new production commissioned by the Finborough Theatre.

This production contains full frontal male nudity, strong language and scenes of extreme violence.

About Playwright Tom McGrath

Playwright Tom McGrath was born in Rutherglen, Glasgow, in 1940. During the mid 1960s, he was associated with the emerging UK underground culture, participating in Alexander Trocchi's Project Sigma, working as features editor of Peace News, and becoming founding editor of The International Times. During the early 1970s, he worked with Billy Connolly on The Great Northern Welly-Boot Show. From 1974 to 1977, he was director of the Third Eye Centre where he wrote the popular play Laurel and Hardy. He died in 2009.

About Co-Writer Jimmy Doyle

Co-writer Jimmy Boyle was born in Gorbals, Glasgow, in 1944. He is a Scottish sculptor, novelist and convicted murderer. In 1967, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder. During his incarceration he turned to wrote an autobiography, A Sense of Freedom (1977), which has since been filmed. On his release from prison, he continued his artistic career. He designed the largest concrete sculpture in Europe called Gulliver for The Craigmillar Festival Society in 1976. Boyle has also published Pain of Confinement: Prison Diaries (1984), and a novel, Hero of the Underworld (1999). The latter was adapted for a French film, La Rage et le Rêve des Condamnés (The Anger and Dreams of the Condemned), and won the best documentary prize at the Fifa Montreal awards in 2002. He also has written a forthcoming novel, A Stolen Smile.

About Director Mark Dominy

Director Mark Dominy was the Resident Assistant Director at the Finborough Theatre where he has assisted Alex Marker on Summer Day's Dream, David Mercatali on Black Jesus and a variety of directors including Kate Wasserberg and Purni Morell on Vibrant 2013 – A Festival of Finborough Playwrights. Trained at the University of East Anglia. Direction includes Nylons (The Globe, Brighton), What I Want to Say But Never Will (Hinchingbrooke Performing Arts Centre, Cambridge), Oedipus – The Hour (Edinburgh Festival), The Trial (Studio Theatre, Norwich) and One For The Road (Rehearsal Theatre, Norwich). Assistant Direction includes The Woman in Black (Fortune Theatre) and Wives As They Were and Maids as They Are (Theatre Royal Bury St. Edmunds).

About The Casting Director

Casting Director Emily Jones

Productions at the Finborough Theatre include Unscorched.

Theatre includes World Enough and Time (Park Theatre), The Keepers of Infinite Space (Park Theatre) and As You Like It, Richard III (Changeling Theatre).Film includes Limbo (JenX Films) and Ibiza Undead (Temple Heart Films). Emily has assisted Ginny Schiller for the past year on over twenty productions including 1984 (Headlong), Relative Values (Theatre Royal Bath) and Scenes from a Marriage (St James Theatre), both directed by Trevor Nunn, A Day in the Death of Joe Egg and Ghosts (Rose Theatre, Kingston) and Pride and Prejudice (Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park).

About Fight Director Ronin Traynor

Ronin Traynor has directed fights for over 150 productions including film, TV, musicals, opera, motion capture and numerous theatre shows in the UK and overseas, including work with Icarus Theatre Collective. Ronin has worked on SEGA's award winning Total War series (Empire, Napoleon, Shogun II, Rome II), award winning web series The Syndicate and Killzone Mercenary. Film includes Candle to Water, The Powder Room and The First Musketeer. Television includes Blue Peter and Chronicles of Syntax (web series).

The Press on The Hard Man and Playwright Tom McGrath

"The hardman in this stunning new John Byrne, a graduate of the Glasgow mean streets for whom violence is an art form practised for itself...Any bald summary of the play’s contents is liable to either sensationalise them or render a reviewer’s recommendation unpalatable. I can only report that I have experienced the most moving play of the year." Michael Coveney, Financial Times

"Always entertaining, often moving, and occasionally stunning" Cordelia Oliver, The Guardian

"The intervening years have brought many more portrayals of gangland thuggery, but this one still stings with its vision of unremitting violence." Mark Fisher, The Guardian

The Press on Director Mark Dominy

Artistically directed” Three Weeks on Oedipus – The Hour.

“A truly engrossing experience” Broadway Baby on Oedipus – The Hour.

“It’s humour, and many moments of joy truly illuminate the darkness of life on the Home Front” WeLoveBrighton on Nylons.

The Press on Current Production

“Gripping and chilling...Genuinely frightening” Timothy Bano, The Upcoming

“A visceral and gripping antidote to the smug and well worn theatre which graces so many of London’s stages.” Rahul Rose, The Public Reviews

“Compelling and powerful.” Robbie Lumsden, Bargain Theatreland

“If this production, the first in London for over 25 years, is anything to go by it has not lost any of its original power.” Rahul Rose, The Public Reviews

“An intensely physical production which shows the endless ways to brutalise another human being from skull cracking to eye gouging.” Rahul Rose, The Public Reviews

“The Finborough has to be one of the best pub theatres in London. Its stage is womb like; the audience sits within a cockpit of violence and hyper-masculinity, observing a biography of brutality from its beginnings on the streets of Glasgow to its grotesque crescendo in prison with full frontal male nudity...Truly shocking.” Rahul Rose, The Public Reviews

“Claustrophobically brutal.” Daniel Harrison, A Younger Theatre

“A violent and thought provoking evening of theatre.” Emily Pulham, Everything Theatre

“It rams home the hard truths about life not very far away from ours, and is a hard watch. Yet sometimes theatre needs to be.” Daniel Harrison, A Younger Theatre

“Even in its darkest moments, an incredibly uplifting work, and one that has been given here an exemplary production.” Robbie Lumsden, Bargain Theatreland

“Boyle and McGrath’s insightful writing.” Rahul Rose, The Public Reviews

“Boyle’s words clang with gritty authenticity, aided by co-writer Tom McGrath, who went to meet Boyle in prison to help frame and structure the piece.” Daniel Harrison, A Younger Theatre

“The acting is outstanding, and this extremely well-written play leaves many hard social truths to be examined and considered.” Emily Pulham, Everything Theatre

“Martin Docherty as Byrne, Ross F Sutherland as cruel prison officer Paisley and Ross Dunsmore as a fellow prisoner offer some superb performances.” Timothy Bano, The Upcoming

“Docherty is particularly fearsome and fearless, his gaunt face and pale skin looking toughened by the biting Glaswegian cold, his clenched jaw and cold eyes making him seem very much the hard man.” Timothy Bano, The Upcoming

“Martin Docherty’s Byrne is compelling; he plays the part with all the violent menace it deserves.” Rahul Rose, The Public Reviews

“Martin Docherty as Byrne, meanwhile, is flawless. He twitches about the space, totally unpredictable to the audience. He is harrowing and traumatic to watch.” Daniel Harrison, A Younger Theatre

“Ross Sutherland turn as Paisley, a vicious and sadistic warden, is utterly convincing.” Rahul Rose, The Public Reviews

“Ruth Milne is brilliant.” Emily Pulham, Everything Theatre

“The performances are mesmeric.” Daniel Harrison, A Younger Theatre

“Mark Dominy’s outstanding production.” Robbie Lumsden, Bargain Theatreland

Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays, 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18 March 2014

Tickets and Times

Monday 7:30pm
Tuesday 2:00pm
Sunday 7:30pm

2 and a half hours with one interval of 15 minutes