Andy Nyman talks ‘hangmans’ and the complexity of extremities
We are in 1965, in the United Kingdom, and the government has just abolished hanging. First-rate executioner Harry (played by David Threlfall) now spends his days owning a pub with his wife Alice (Tracie Bennett) and her daughter, Shirley (Gaby French), drinking the minutes. When an unexpected stranger named Mooney (Alfie Allen) appears at the pub, Harry’s world is turned upside down.
Andy Nyman stars as Syd, Harry’s useless and rude ex-assistant who has a deadly secret up his sleeve. I spoke with Andy and earned a “metaphorical” front-row seat in the actor’s intelligent, charming, and creative mind.
Andy Nyman is a force in the worlds of theatre, TV, film and mentalism
The English entertainer has spent his career making strides on stage, screen and in the realm of magic. His credits include Teyve in the West End revival of fiddler on the roof, Winston Churchill in Peaky BlindersVice-Chancellor Jonty de Wolfe in the British sitcom Campusand appearances in kick ass 2, Jungle Cruiseand much more.
at Andy’s childhood hobby of performing magic tricks eventually became an essential part of his career. He spent more than 25 years inventing magic, teaching magicians, and co-writing and directing theater shows and television series with an English mentalist and illusionist. Derren Brown.
at Andy’s acting and his supernatural work help each other coexist in the same space. “I use a lot of memory techniques that I learned in the world of mentalism that really help speed up that process,” he explains, “especially when you can’t get it right, you can find those little pegs that you can just hang it in. So you never forget it.
These mentalist techniques also help Andy as he steps into the role of a deceived henchman each night.
hanged tells the humorous yet dark story of morality as it relates to crime and punishment
Playwright Martin McDonaghalso known for directing the Golden Globe-winning film Three billboardsframes hanged as a satire in a deeper political and social environment. “It’s screaming out loud, funny. It’s the most incredible thriller, with the brightest plot twists. Andy says, “Then underneath it all, there are amazing things to be said about a lot of things, from capital punishment to masculinity.”
For Andy Nyman, Syd continues to evolve with each performance
Initially, Andy did not play the role of Syd when the show premiered at the Royal Court Theater in London in 2015. After falling in love with the production (at first sight), he was given the opportunity to reprise the role of Syd for all 2016 West End performances. Now, Andy steps onto that Broadway stage every night, feeling lucky to immerse himself in Syd’s funny and sleazy personality, each time slightly different.
In the play’s transition from the West End to Broadway, David Threlfall succeeded Harry and Alfie Allen for Moony. “I rediscover all my staff” Andy said. “All the fun is you kind of transform around them and they learn new things.”
Simultaneously, the show’s subject matter carries more weight in its move to New York, as the United States continues to apply the death penalty while England does not. “You have a play here where at home it’s like, ‘wow, how amazing and weird that we used to kill people.’ Like, it always happens.
It’s sure to hit the American public hard given the reality of capital punishment in the United States.
Throughout Andy Nyman’s career he portrayed extreme characters with graceful care
Andy handled intense characters like Tevye, Winston Churchill, and now Syd. He worked in extreme comedy, extreme violence; you name it. However, he can’t just throw himself headlong into these roles. There is a formula. “Once I can find the things that I can relate to and understand, I can start building and building and building,” he says.
Andy refuses to play anything safe when it comes to his acting. While there’s always that risk of it falling flat or becoming a failure, he’d rather take that leap. “If you operate on the razor’s edge, you can achieve things that become unforgettable,” he explains. “Extremes hopefully work because somehow you still believe in them as an audience.”
Andy Nyman on acting for the stage versus the screen: “One is a brush, and the other is a laser.”
When you imagine a paintbrush coloring a canvas, the art will stand alone for an audience to see after it’s completed – like seeing a movie in theaters. However, a laser moves and moves depending on the active participants watching, which is like watching a play on stage. Each medium has its own emotional attachment.
“On a movie or TV show, you do your little puzzle pieces, and very often you just walk in with what you bring to it,” Andy shares. “In theater you have four weeks to dig in and be shaped and suggested and changed and moved around so that you really create a complete thing.”
In at Andy’s experience, the stage gives the actors a chance to “reap the rewards” from the audience. In film or television, actors have something tangible to look back on because their name flashes on the screen. Either way, both bring Andy the same feelings: love, a little frustration at work and wonder.
Andy Nyman shares his gratitude and hope for the future of the theater and film industries
The COVID pandemic may have halted new art screenings, but it hasn’t stopped its creation. “After the two years of earth-shattering weirdness that we’ve been through, we have this fantastic backlog of art that comes out of this isolation and the pain that we’ve been through,” Andy makes assumptions. We can see this idea come to fruition on the Broadway stagelike new works like MinutesA strange loop, place of paradiseand hanged open to the public. Television and cinema offer new content every week. It’s not a quiet time when it comes to artists.
Andy he himself feels grateful for all the ways he was able to keep working on his craft. As he reflects on his time, he mentions one of his favorite projects, a long-running horror play and film adaptation titled ghost stories. Not only Andy working with a longtime friend Jeremy Dysonwho co-wrote the show, but he also got to direct and star when the movie was born. While ghost stories is close to his heart, Andy feels proud of all his work. “I look at all the work that I’ve done, and I think 95% of it, I feel so proud to be able to choose something that feels really special to me,” he says.
hanged Broadway Tickets
hanged runs on Broadway until June 15, 2022. Buy your tickets here.
*The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity..*
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