Thursday, 17 May 2018

Fast: Purple Playhouse Theatre

Fast
Written by Kate Barton
Directed by Kate Valentine
Digital Drama 
The Purple Playhouse Theatre
10th and 11th May


Within the Gothic timber ribs of the Purple Playhouse Theatre, flickering lights go up on Kate Barton’s chilling psychological drama ‘Fast.’ Based on a true story from the early 20th century, two young sisters are drawn to the confines of ‘Doctor’ Linda Hazzard’s sanatorium in order to experience the healing powers of fasting treatment. Sealed in seclusion and silenced by the acceptance of medical authority, the fate of the subjects lay in Hazzard’s hands and her fervid beliefs. As time ticks and the sisters’ bodies diminish, the eyes of suspicion surrounding the hospital grounds grow. Will salvation come in time?

Like a Victorian anatomical examination, audiences take their seats in the round to view the dark workings of Hazzard’s practice; impressively opened up through the combination of a strategically positioned set, careful lighting and precision sound effects. Through the clever use of projections on medical screens, transitions in the plot are smoothly bridged, sinister scenes are skilfully conveyed and historical elements are added to present a well-rounded piece.

Caroline Lawrie slips into the role of Dr Hazzard like a dainty hand into a tailored white glove. Her beguiling manner entwined with touches of class form the perfect guise of an honourable doctor through which trusting victims are ensnared. Whilst adroitly conveying the soft assurance of a learned authority, Lawrie masterfully widens her eyes and varies her delivery to provide a delicious edge of lunacy. To do so without lapsing into parody, demonstrates the masterful walk of a delicate tightrope; one which may only be accomplished by highly experienced performers. 

With the introduction of sisters Dora and Claire, played by Anya Williams and Stephanie James respectively, chuckles rise from the audience in response to the comical contrast of their childish and wry characters. With skilled penmanship and direction behind the creation of this work, all members of the well-selected cast are enabled to shine. The performance of Anya Williams is particularly worthy of note, as her superb timing buffs the best of Barton’s amusing lines.

With the insertion of a few sharp shocks of fright, this production may be transformed into something truly electrifying; however, this is the most minor of points when considering all the merits of this highly accomplished piece.

4.5/5

Tickets: Brighton Fringe
Website: Digital Drama
Twitter: @DigiDrama