Friday, April 8, 2011

The Hardman

Chris and I saw the new production of The Hardman, directed by Philip Breen, in Edinburgh through Saturday I believe and then moving on to Glasgow (check out dates here if you are in Scotland). The play written by the late Tom McGrath, and Jimmy Boyle, the famous gangster turned artist whose early life it retells. Criticized when it was first produced in the Seventies for glamorizing violence, the play is an unrelenting encounter with the horror of violence. It is an exercise in the most courageous kind of truth telling (especially given that Boyle was still in prison and seeking parole release from a life sentence for murder) which spares little in describing Boyle's escalating violence as a young man turned gangster, a pattern that only accelerates initially when it meets the routinized violence of Scottish prisons in the period. Interestingly Boyle's character, Johnny Bond, is better at exhibiting violence physically (and the production fo the revival in this respect is brilliant and wonderfully acted by Alex Ferns) the explaining it analytically (he says at one point that he cannot read his DNA). Instead, the most insightful lines are given to the racist (anti-Catholic) and sadistic prison officer Paisley:

...And the other...screws don't like me because they know I'm the one that does the dirty work for them.

They know what this prison would be like if we didn't get tough from time to time. They don't want to walk in fear of their life from day to day when they're going about their job, any more than you would. So they tolerate me. I'm (their) hardman. And they feel a wee bit guilty about me because I'm an aspect of themselves they don't like to admit to. Just like you should be feeling guilty about us because we're the garbage disposal squad for the social sewage system. You people out there, that's the way it works for you --- you've got a crime problem so you just flush it away one thug after another in behind bars and safely locked away. The cistern's clanked and you can think you can leave it floating away from you to the depths of the sea. Well, ah've goat news fur you --- its pollution. Yir gonnae huv tae look ut it. Because if yae don't, wun day its gannae destroy yae. But in the meantime, dirties like me, well, lets just say we're a necessary evil. Very necessary.

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