Review: Fast, Park Theatre

Set over a Century ago, Fast tells the tale of Linda Hazzard, a quack Doctor who operated in both Washington State and then New Zealand. She obtained her medical license through dodgy loopholes that helped all sorts of unsavoury characters to practice unscientific methods and treatments – hers being ‘The Starvation Cure.’ Ironic, as she ended up (presumably) accidentally starving herself to death in 1938. In this dramatized version of events by Kate Valentine, she claimed many more lives through her ‘methods’, and in real life its thought that she was responsible for the death of more than 40 patients.

Set in Dr Hazzard’s dingy Olalla sanitarium, set design by Emily Beestow makes the best of the small upstairs space at the Park Theatre. The walls are yellowing, and the old paint job is an awful pale olive green. However, they may as well have splattered some red food colouring up the wall, and strung some synthetic spiders web in the corner with a little plastic spider, because the whole thing is rather haunted house-y. The story is so horrifying and bizarre that it seems almost unrealistic, like a ghost story told around a campfire, or an absurd urban legend. Fast does nothing to dispel this, and neither does Caroline Lawrie, playing the leading role of Linda.

To begin with, her accent fluctuates between American and staunchly British, which is fairly distracting and off-putting. I know we are at the theatre, but her performance is rather theatrical, and quite sporadically so. In this production, Hazzard seems to also be able to manipulate electricity, and upon throwing her arms into the air, the lights will go off. Little touches like this would be more effective were they more subtle. Performing them with the gusto that they are given by Lawrie renders them a little bit laughable, and Hazzard as a dodgy character you might encounter at London Dungeons. 

Jordon Stevens and Natasha Cowley are fine as the prim and proper wealthy British sisters who pay a fatal visit to ‘Starvation Heights’, as it was affectionately dubbed, while Daniel Norford as the reporter who uncovers the scandal is pressing and unrelenting in his pursuit of the truth. A truth that once discovered unravels very quickly, in a short scene towards the end (about 30 enemas too late), that sees Hazzard’s unlawful practice revealed. The concept of Fast is unique and interesting, but unfortunately it hasn’t been executed quite right. With fewer Halloween vibes and more real, genuine fear – it could be something really special.

Fast is played the Park Theatre until 10 October. For more information, visit the Park Theatre website.