Fast at the Park Theatre is an intriguingly dark new play about the psychopathic Linda Hazzard. A doctor who infamously prescribed extreme fasts to cure disease. A diet to death! Be prepared for a gloomy and sinister night as you watch the disturbing story of Hazzard unfold.
Kate Barton has written a factual and informative show about Hazzard’s life motto, that “Death from starvation cannot take place in a fast when organic disease is absent”. Dr Hazzard (Caroline Lawrie) was active in the late 20th century and was imprisioned for causing the death of her patients (11 dead in 12 years). Fast is a dramatic recreation of a somber story, but unfortunately that’s all it is. It fails to create a journey of emotion and instead is a bleak play about an evil woman.
The story follows the orphaned Williamson sisters, who join Dr Hazzard’s sanitarium after reading her book. They suffer from headaches and sea sickness, but Dr Hazzard dramatises their ailments and claims they must be under her 6 week treatment at once. Dora (Natasha Cowley) and Claire (Jordan Stevens) are beautifully naive and sweet girls, so it’s painful to watch their innocence being used. Dr Hazzard wanders about the eerie sanitarium in a menacing way, manipulating the girls into true illness. The whole tone of the show is down-trodden. It’s a highly fascinating story but lacks any element of light and shade to be truly excellent.
Stylistically, the show is a spoof murder mystery. It includes larger than life personas and pantomime like acting. Dr Hazzard is portrayed as an evil villain and often breaks the 4th wall to talk to the audience. This comes across as very over the top and unauthentic. But this style holds throughout and creates some spooky moments.
Despite the depressing tone of the show, Cowley and Stevens act joyfully as the two sisters. They create a loving bond in the first scene and their youthful energy is pleasing to watch. They act with true realism on stage and they are both very charismatic. Lawrie, whilst a little over the top is a terrifying Dr Hazzard and holds a strong presence on stage. The charming Daniel Norford plays an investigating journalist called Horace. He plays Horace in a innocent but strong manner and is very natural on stage very.
Overall, Fast takes an intriguing true story from the 1800s and stylistically brings it to life. It’s dark and grim, but highly educating to watch.