‘There’s not enough meat on the bones of’ Fast at the Park Theatre
Emily Bestow’s set for Fast,a new play by Kate Barton, suggests the show is just in time for Halloween. With a woodland setting, there’s a definite sense of a haunted lab that houses a mad scientist around the intimate space of Park90.
It’s the early years of the twentieth century, and medical quack ‘Doctor’ Linda Hazzard (Caroline Lawrie) believes in fasting as a cure for disease. Sisters Dora (Natasha Cowley) and Claire (Jordan Stevens), two British heiresses, are admitted to Hazzard’s sanatorium with the hopes of having their medical problems solved. As might be expected, this doesn’t quite come to fruition.
Set predominantly in a sanatorium of rural Olella, there’s an uneasy atmosphere lingering throughout the show. But sadly, the set actually highlights the show’s biggest problem: despite the potential to be a terrifying meditation on health crazes, there’s no actual sense of horror attributed to the show at all.
David Chilton’s sound design is powerfully atmospheric, but the writing and production are at odds with each other. If only Barton leaned more into her topic, as there’s a distinct feeling that historical accuracy is battling Barton’s creative license to make this an eerily relevant piece. Why, for example, does Hazzard just allow journalist Horace Cayton Junior (Daniel Norford) to walk away and expose her deathly survival rate?
The consequent juxtaposition throughout the work threatens the otherwise solid performances. Director Kate Valentine has drawn good performances, but given the text’s inconsistencies Lawrie’s eye-bulging Hazzard almost become comedic when one feels she should be uncomfortably psychotic. Cowley’s otherwise strong Dora, with sparklingly intelligent eyes, has no satisfactory resolution.
One feels, bizarrely, that Fast should be longer but with a careful cultivation of its themes and characters. This would allow Hazzard’s connection with Dora to develop so that when Horace comes snooping there can be potential for friction or for the stunted dialogue to be resolved. Instead, there’s not enough meat on the bones of this show.
The advertising to Fast bills it as a “chilling parallel to our modern world of influencers”. Obviously there’s potential for this show to be so much more, but, sadly, the only connection I could find to the show was a feeling of deep hunger for more considered writing.
Fast is at the Park Theatre until 9 November.
Photograph credit: Manuel Harlan.