Edinburgh Fringe 2009
Hayton on Homicide
Venue: The Spaces at Royal College of Surgeons
A late C19th rationalist is confronted both by phenomena he cannot explain and by a wife who copes with surprises better than he does. He struggles to hold onto the old certainties.
We are in M. R. James territory with this enjoyable piece in which Hayton, a Cambridge don, finds his rationalist beliefs challenged by a series of bizarre events.
He patronises and even bullies his loquacious wife, expressing all the contempt of an 1883 male intellectual for the capacities of the female intelligence.
Yet it is Florence who again and again displays more insight into the situation and even has a better grasp of the complex facts. She is, in most of the ways that matter, simply cleverer than him.
Weird things are happening to their friends and neighbours, the Kentwells: ghostly hauntings, a visit from a medium who knows far more about them than she should, hallucinatory experiences, etc. Gradually a complicated back-story emerges of scientific ambition, murder, deception, and drug-addiction and inevitably it leads to another act of violence.
The play teeters just the right side of camp and rattles along with witty dialogue that raises issues like female emancipation, the advance of science, and the existence of paranormal powers in an amusing manner. Hayton is superbly played by Robert Jezek – all pomposity and pedantry – and Sarah Kenyon as Florence is almost as good.
The authors, Michelle Golder with assistance from Robert Jezek, have constructed a clever narrative with plenty of surprises along the way.
There is a little too much backstory to be unravelled and the abrupt ending, though a nice surprise, left a few more loose threads than your (perhaps slow-witted) reviewer was able to tie up.
If you love Sherlock Holmes but wish his creator had taken him a little less seriously, you’ll enjoy this.