SB blog Cover (2000 x 1000 px)

Interview with Stephen Bennett

This week we caught up with Fast co-writer and director Stephen Bennett to get his thoughts on the play, and how he plans to bring it life on stage in October this year.

Writing about true crime must be so interesting.  Can you share any insights on your research process?

I think the key to making a gripping piece of theatre out of a true story is to try and allow the audience some insight into what makes the characters tick. We can never really connect with their motivations on a daily basis but we can present the moral and practical dilemmas that lead them to their actions, however heinous, and let the audience form their own take on – and, we hope, have an immediate visceral reaction to – events that really happened. The initial research/background, in essence, demands we stick to a set of recorded facts but presenting those, via the actors, in an immediate, dramatic and thought-provoking manner is, we hope, what will bring that history to life.

The play focusses on two victims but what was the true extent of Hazzard’s practices?

Many of her contemporaries and ‘patients’ would have sworn Hazzard was doing valuable, pioneering work. Unfortunately, the many who died in her ‘care’, would not be in a position to disagree. The question of choice, on the part of the victims, is key to the drama and one of the central moral questions in the play.

Despite the controversy, Hazzard continued to work.  What enabled her to do so?

Some of that is covered in the previous answer, I think. Those who benefited no doubt felt that the less fortunate had been unable to manage or sustain their commitment to the treatment; it was as much, if not more, their own fault as Hazzard’s. Just as we see nowadays with influencers and social-media cult figures, any weakness is on the part of the follower not the leader. It’s both a complicated scenario and a useful reminder of the unfathomable depths of human stupidity.

Does the play explore other areas of criminality and social injustice at that time?

Part of Hazzard’s story is that she did venture into other unsavoury illegal areas in order to feather her own nest. It was this secondary element, in a sense, that lead to her (temporary) downfall. You’ll need to see the play for clarification of all that as I wouldn’t want to give the plot away. Via Hazzard’s conflict with Horace Cayton, a Black newspaper owner and reporter, we’ve also tried to illustrate the irony of one mistrusted outsider being called upon to expose and condemn another.

Hazzard was defended at times by some high-profile members of society.   How was she able to achieve this?

Again, one of the many vagaries of human nature. Maybe it’s the sense of being part of an exclusive club; followers feel special while the rest are just collateral damage to be pitied briefly (not rich, smart or cool enough?) then quickly forgotten.

Fast is described as a psychological thriller. As director can you give us a flavour of what audiences can expect?

They can expect to have a strong reaction, I know that much. When you find yourself, at times throughout the play, laughing along with – and even sympathising with – someone who may well be a dangerous psychopath, you’ll probably be asking questions afterwards about how rational, intelligent people can fall under the spell of a charismatic celebrity. Also, it’s a very visual, fast-paced show (pardon the pun) and we hardly have time to wrestle with one moral ambiguity before the next one comes crashing in.

What would you like audiences to take away?

Questions, mainly – about our own attitudes to celebrity and our susceptibility to manipulation when it comes to our obsession with ‘image’. And maybe the question of whether the notion of ‘evil’ only exists in a society that naively expects ‘good’.

We’d like to thank Stephen for taking time to discuss his involvement in Fast and wish him the very best of luck with the production which he’ll be directing later this year.  You can catch Fast at Upstairs at the Gatehouse theatre from 29th October – 17th November.

More News

<em>Interview with Kate Barton</em>
This week we caught up with co-writer and originator of Fast, Kate Barton, to get her thoughts on some of the key themes in her play and how they are still relevant today.
<em>Interview with William Motley</em>
This week we caught up with writer William Motley to discuss how attitudes towards equality have changed since the early nineteenth century when Gay Pride And No Prejudice is set. 

Join our Mailing list!

Signup for our mailing list to hear the latest Stephen Leslie news.