“a powerful play that is sure to have you gripped from beginning to end”
As we enter Park Theatre’s smallest performance space, Park90, the eerie, sinister feel of Kate Barton’s play, Fast, is immediately made clear. Dimly lit and murky, the set genuinely looks like the setting of a horror film, decorated with leaves, branches, and ripped sheets on the ceiling, to name a few features.
Fast is based on the true story of Linda Hazzard, an American “doctor” who promoted fasting as a treatment and cure for illness at the turn of the 20th century. Hazzard is portrayed exceptionally by Caroline Lawrie, with her demeanour perfectly capturing a determined, albeit somewhat warped and disturbing woman. Lawrie has the ability to both charm and shock the audience in equal measure.
Natasha Cowley and Jordon Stevens play sisters Dora and Claire Williamson. The pair are enticed into being admitted to Hazzard’s sanatorium, believing her alternative methods will cure them of any ill-health they are experiencing. Near the beginning of the piece we learn of the relationship between the two sisters, with light-hearted banter taking place as they discuss their plans. The cast of four is completed by Daniel Norford, who plays Horace Cayton Jnr, a reporter intent on exposing Hazzard.
Once at the sanatorium, things quickly escalate for the Williamson sisters as they are subjected to Hazzard’s fasting treatments and their conditions take a turn for the worse. These sections of the play are particularly chilling and, at times, quite hard to watch.
Costume designer, Emily Bestow, who also designed the set, excels with her choice of clothing for the actors, which portrays the period very well. Sound design by David Chilton is also effective and helps with capturing the sinister nature of the story. Ben Bull’s lighting and projection design adds to this further and projections detailing dates and newspaper headlines remind us that we watching a play based on real events.
Kate Valentine has directed Fast in such a way that we feel as though we are sat in Hazzard’s sanatorium and witnessing these shocking events that occurred all those years ago. The acting from everyone involved, visual elements and sound all combine to create a powerful play that is sure to have you gripped from beginning to end.
“This production is fast paced and, whilst this is coupled with energetic performances, it does mean there is the danger of losing the gist of the plot at times”
This Jacobean play is one of Shakespeare’s lesser known pieces. Theatre company Idle Discourse have chosen Pericles as their current production, running for a short time at The Gatehouse Theatre, before heading to the Baroque Theatre at Zamek Valtice in the Czech Republic. In a nutshell, it’s a story of young Prince Pericles who flees the King of Antioch. This King is determined to kill Pericles as he finds out he has learnt of his incestuous affair with his daughter. Throw in stormy seas, characters such as a love interest, some villains and a long lost daughter and we have our, slightly mad, story.
As this is not a well-known Shakespeare play, with multiple characters coming in and out, it would be of benefit to research the plot of Pericles before seeing it. This production is fast paced and, whilst this is coupled with energetic performances, it does mean there is the danger of losing the gist of the plot at times.
The narrator of the play, Gower, is portrayed as a tourist visiting London. He finds a book, which he starts reading, before being immersed in the world of the play. He’s even involved in the action at certain points. This is a nice concept, framing the scenes well and providing added entertainment.
According to the director (Dan Dawes), the play has been given a “1970s twist”, although this isn’t hugely clear aside from a couple of small nods to the decade in one or two costumes and one particularly “hippy”-like character. The majority of the costumes suggest the play has been set in the modern day.
The eight performers (except narrator, Gower) all take on multiple roles throughout the play. The majority grab this opportunity with both hands, showing their versatility as actors and delivering some laugh-out-loud performances.
There’s no doubting the entertainment factor of this production. This is mainly down to the actors and their ability to engage the audience through comedy. It does feel a bit like you’re watching a pantomime throughout, but maybe that’s a good thing. The play is packed with many characters which it could be argued need to be larger than life in order to engage a modern audience in this lesser known Shakespeare piece.