Theatre review - Fast

Linda Hazzard (Caroline Lawrie) believes fasting can cure a diseased body and runs a sanatorium, popular with wealthy clients. She is dedicated to starvation diets (namely water and asparagus soup) and has made something of a name for herself.  

Hazzard is clearly a quack, many of her “treatments” have proved fatal and she should have been struck off years ago. But “the doctor” has influential friends.

It’s 1910. English heiresses, Dora (Natasha Cowley) and her younger sister Claire (Jordan Stevens) are on a great adventure travelling across America. Claire spots an advert for Hazzard’s clinic and persuades Dora to accompany her.

Perfectly healthy, they enter Wilderness Heights in Olalla, Washington, to find their lives transformed forever. Their only hope is a journalist, Horace R. Cayton Jr. (Daniel Norford), who wants to expose Haggard as a charlatan and a murderer and stop her practising.

Based on a true story, Kate Barton’s exploration of a society that believes fasting and enemas are chic and that starvation is the cure for all ills should have felt more topical. Instead, it is played as an old-fashioned gothic horror, leavened by grim humour courtesy of Lawrie’s bug eyes, deathly pallor and melodramatic gestures.

Barton wrote Fast while completing a Masters in Creative Writing and it was shortlisted for Best New Play 2018 by New Writing South. Running at just 70 minutes, it’s cleverly staged by Kate Valentine, but Barton fails to develop enough contemporary resonance to ensure we care for her characters and their predicament.

Running at Park 90 until 9 November