Review: Fast

4 star rating
Chilling quackery from the early 20th century gets re-examined in an eerie and unsettling tale where fasting promoted as a cure-all leads to untimely death, yet still proves gripping.
Fast at the Park Theatre

Image courtesy Park Theatre


Theatre: Park Theatre

Closes here: Saturday 9 November 2019

Author:
Kate Barton

Director:
Kate Valentine

Cast:

Caroline Lawrie - Linda Hazzard

Natasha Cowley - Dora Williamson

Jordon Stevens - Claire Williamson

Daniel Norford - Horace Cayton Jnr.

Featuring the voice of Stephen Critchlow


Synopsis


In Wilderness Heights, an isolated region of the Pacific Northwest, 'Dr' Linda Hazzard opens her clinic to the public.


The public do not always survive …


In a chilling parallel to our modern world of influencers peddling protein shakes and diet pills, Fast is the true story of 'Dr' Linda Hazzard who advocated a fasting cure that gripped the press and divided a nation.


Complex, beguiling and utterly driven, was Hazzard vilified as a woman in a man's world or were there darker forces at play?


Background


Award-winning producer Digital Drama is delighted to bring Fast to Park Theatre after sell out shows at the Brighton and Edinburgh Fringe.


Shortlisted for Best New Play Award 2018 by New Writing South.


Trailer



ActDrop reviews


Peter Brown

Performance date: Thursday 17 October 2019
Review star rating image

Even with painstakingly researched, science-based care available through our treasured NHS, some people still turn to the realms of 'alternative' medicine to seek relief from medical conditions, or even to 'improve' their bodies.


In some cases, of course, the inability of medical science to provide effective treatment might force some people to seek solutions outside of mainstream medicine to suppress or eradicate painful symptoms.


Though some 'alternative' medicine may be both sound and effective, desperation can leave people exposed to the potential menace of charismatic charlatans or 'quacks', often armed with powerful persuasive techniques and a strong desire to free their patients from the burden of their purses.


This play is a reminder that not all 'alternative' therapies may be efficacious.


Focusing on real events from the early 20th century, Fast focuses on one woman who lured patients to her remote sanitarium by advocating fasting as a cure-all for a wide range of ailments.

Caroline Lawrie as Linda Hazzard - photo by Manuel Harlan

Caroline Lawrie as Linda Hazzard - photo by Manuel Harlan


Linda Burfield Hazzard (1867 to 1938) had no medical degree but was 'grandfathered' a licence owing to a loophole in the law.


In some cases, her patients were required to fast for weeks or months, consuming only minute quantities of soup or juice.


Some of Ms Hazzard's patients did recover from their illnesses and publicly praised her work.


However, over 40 of her patients died under her care and she was convicted in 1912 of the manslaughter of Claire Williamson, who features here in Kate Barton's engrossing play.


The Williamson sisters - Dora and Claire - are travelling the world when they read of 'Dr' Hazzard's unique fasting treatment in her book entitled 'Fasting for the Cure of Disease'.


So they decide to pay a visit to Wilderness Heights (known to locals as 'starving heights') where they are immediately told by the dogmatic Linda Hazzard that they are "very sick" and in need of at least 6 weeks treatment - priced at $60 per week.

Caroline Lawrie, Jordon Stevens and Natasha Cowley in Fast at the Park Theatre

(From left) Caroline Lawrie, Jordon Stevens, Natasha Cowley - photo by Manuel Harlan


Surviving only sips of vegetable juice and forced to take regular enemas, the sisters' physical condition quickly declines with devastating consequences.


Caroline Lawrie gives us a disturbing and domineering Linda Hazzard, a woman who rails - with some justification - against male dominance of the medical profession.


But Ms Lawrie's character is also controlling and threatening, orchestrating events throughout with seemingly macabre intent, such as deliberately separating the close-knit sisters, rendering them vulnerable and powerless to resist her dubious remedies and authority.

Daniel Norford as Horace Cayton Jnr. in Fast at the Park Theatre

Daniel Norford as Horace Cayton Jnr. - photo by Manuel Harlan


Natasha Cowley and Jordon Stevens are impressive, offering contrasting performances - the latter the more naive of the two and Ms Cowley more sceptical but who succumbs nonetheless.


Daniel Norford completes the fine ensemble as a suitably determined and resolute newshound who ultimately exposes the reality of the treatment the sanitarium provides.


It was a packed mid-week house in Park90 when I caught this show - suggesting this sombre subject has enormous pulling power.


But I doubt anyone left disappointed as this is an unsettlingly eerie yet gripping drama.


And one final ironic note: Linda Hazzard died in 1938 ... while undergoing a fasting cure of her own devising!



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