Fringe REVIEW: Fast @Purple Playhouse Theatre

The new play Fast by Kate Barton is a dark drama based on a true story.

SET at the turn of the 20th Century in the Pacific Northwest, the play examines ‘Doctor’ Linda Hazzard. Complex, mesmeric and driven, Hazzard advocated a fasting cure that gripped the press and divided the nation. Her ideas were not new, yet Hazzard was subjected to intense scrutiny.

The small cast is uniformly good, the sisters played with a sweet dependency and confusion as the wretched starvation treatments take their toll. The set is interesting with a lovely use of projection to move on time and back story by projecting on the back of an old wheeled medical screen.

The costume, set and cast get the period detail right and inflections of character traits allow us insight into relationships both personal and professional.

Dr Hazzard played by Caroline Lawrie was an odd mix of a person, determined, angry, driven, but whether she was delusional, demented or coldly psychotic was not truly explored. We got the fact of her experimental treatments of fasting in that notorious sanatorium and a real flavour of the way that many pioneering women were treated as freaks of nature by the press and patrician interests of the day, but the nub of this play is about her motivations.

Was she aware of the harm that her ideas caused – up to the point of death or was she the triumph of self-delusion?  Was she convinced the weakness of her patients lead to their deaths and not her own methodologies. There were moments when the narrative suggested both, and then neither, it was unclear.

The historical obsession with good diet wasn’t explored much other than some throw away lines about Mr Kellogg and his obsessive enema brigades but the manipulative ease to exploit medical trust from worried people forms the core of this play and was explored with a sinister inevitability.

The narrative moves at a good pace and we’re left with exposé in the press then Dr Hazard escaping her conviction and continuing her dangerous experiments in New Zealand.

The play left me a creeped out and with a lingering sense of discomfort, which is a good thing in such a claustrophobic subject matter and I drove off, past the glamourous private medical establishments of Montefiore Road wondering at the suffering caused today by medical fads and unscrupulous or dangerous ideas pushed by celebrities with their own agendas, not looking at you Gwyneth.

Play until May 11.

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