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Fast By Kate Barton at Park Theatre | Review

Fast, Park Theatre (credit Manuel Harlan) Jordon Stevens & Natasha Cowley
Fast, Park Theatre (credit Manuel Harlan) Jordon Stevens & Natasha Cowley

This intriguing new play is based on the extraordinary true story of an American woman, Linda Hazzard, who practised her own brand of medicine – and much else besides – in the early part of the twentieth century. Hazzard’s adherents are relatively few in number but they include two cosseted English girls, Claire and Dorothea Williamson, so beguiled by the ‘doctor’ and her ‘Science of Fasting’ that they are willing to cross the Atlantic to experience it. And experience it they do.

Fast, Barton’s first play, addresses several familiar issues including the challenges faced by women in the professions and the risks for those who allow themselves to be deceived even when what they are told is flatly contradicted by the evidence of their own eyes. It is a powerful mix but Barton balances the different strands effectively, allowing characters to wind in and out of different scenes to propel the story, smoothly and inexorably, towards its devastating conclusion.

As Hazzard, Caroline Lawrie is superb – part fairytale villain part self-affirming zealot – as she lures client after client with promises of miracles and pseudo-scientific diagnoses. Natasha Cowley and Jordon Stevens are heart-breaking as the Williamson sisters and, the only man in the cast, Daniel Norford is excellent as a journalist with an eye for a story. The slick direction by Kate Valentine creates a real sense of place and time. She – and Barton – are particularly well served by Emily Bestow’s atmospheric set, an ingeniously designed box of tricks which, together with an effective lighting and sound design by Ben Bull and David Chilton, conjures up an Edwardian home, the deck of a steamship and the ominous corridors of Hazzard’s ‘Woodland Heights’ and an ominous bathroom. Even that over familiar bane of modern theatre, projections – so often compensation for a limited budget or an overly complex or ambitious script – are effective and, unusually, a vital part of the storytelling.

The Park champions new writers as well as staging revivals from time to time and in Kate Barton, the writer of Fast, they have once again identified an important new voice. We will surely hear more, much more, from Kate Barton.

5 Star Rating

Review by Louis Mazzini

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?

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.

Digital Drama Productions in association with Park Theatre present
By Kate Barton
Directed by Kate Valentine



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