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The Hard Man - Finborough Theatre

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

COMMISSIONED by the Finborough Theatre, and another in its series of acclaimed rediscoveries of Scottish playwrights, the first London production since 1985 of Tom McGrath and Jimmy Boyle’s The Hard Man runs at the Earls Court venue on Sunday and Monday evenings and Tuesday matinees from March 2 to March 18, 2014.

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.

Mark Dominy directs a cast that includes Martin Docherty (as Johnny Byrne), Ross Dunsmore (Deadeye/Archie/Kelley/Policeman/Clerk/Mochan), Adam Harley (Bandit/Johnstone), Jack McMillan (Slugger/Renfrew), Ruth Milne (Lizzie/Carole/Woman’s Voice), Ross F Sutherland (Big Danny/Lewis/Commando/Paisley/Policeman) and Sarah Waddell (Maggie/Maw/Woman with Archie/Bar Woman/Kelly/Didi).

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, and 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.

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 murder. During his incarceration he wrote an autobiography, A Sense of Freedom (1977), which has since been filmed. On his release from prison, he continued his artistic career, designing 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.

Presented by Maximillian Bittleston in association with Neil McPherson for the Finborough Theatre, The Hard Man is designed by Mike Lees, with lighting by Charlie Lucas and sound by Max Pappenheim.

Tickets: £18, £16 concessions – available from the box office on 0844 847 1652 or online at

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

Times: Sunday and Monday evenings at 7.30pm; Tuesday matinees at 2pm.

Also part of the Finborough’s spring season: the first production in more than fifty years of Terence Rattigan’s Variation on a Theme.