BURKE AND HARE
By Tom Wentworth
Jermyn Street Theatre, 16B Jermyn Street, London SW1Y 6SJ to 21 December 2018.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3.30pm.
Runs 2 hr One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7287 2835.
Review: William Russell 1 December
Hare raising hilarity
A play about a couple of mass murderers who in 1828 furnished an Edinburgh surgeon, Robert Knox, with bodies for him to dissect as part of his teaching courses is not quite what one expects as a seasonal offering, but for those tired of pantomime, turkey with all the trimmings, and Christmas pudding as well as tedious television repeats starring dead comedians this very funny three hander frolic should be just the thing.
Hare (Alex Parry), was an Irishman who ran an Edinburgh lodging house with his harridan wife. Burke (Hayden Wood) was a friend from his home town. Dr Knox needed bodies and when one lodger died – there was an influenza epidemic – it seemed a good way of redeeming his debts. Inevitably the law of supply and demand took over and they killed some 16 poor people to provide the former and meet the latter. Katy Daghorn, who plays all the female roles, and a couple of male ones as well, including a rival surgeon called Dr Monro, has a whale of time running off as one person and coming back on through another door as somebody else. Alex Parry is gloriously gruesome as the drunken Hare, while Hayden Wood radiates false bonhomie as Burke and stately ignorance of what is going on as Dr Knox. There is a splendid set which springs a few surprises, both men play guitars and sing songs which appear to have no connection with the goings on, the audience is frequently consulted – when all three had to be on stage at the same time and they needed a corpse a hapless soul in the front row was dragooned into lying on the dissection table – and a thoroughly good time was had by all concerned. The mixture of accents is truly amazing, with the Scottish ones being on a par with VanDyke cockney. They are the worst I have ever heard.
The Burke and Hare story may be no laughing matter, but their activities did result in the 1832 Anatomy Act which prevented this abuse and use of the dead and how they were used for research. They were not grave robbers, nor did they send people to their graves as by the time Dr Knox was done not much was left. Daghorn, Parry and Wood, who display inexhaustible energy, are very funny and director Abigail Pickard Price has done a very good job indeed in keeping the momentum of this macabre affair at top speed.
Burke: Hayden Wood.
Hare: Alex Parry.
Mrs Hare: Katy Daghorn.
All other roles played by members of the cast.
Director: Abigail Pickard Price.
Designer: Toots Butcher.
Lighting Designer: Harry Armitage,
Photographer: Philip Tull.