Friday, 29 January 2010

Review of Hayton on Homicide

I wrote this for the website of the Society for Psychical Research and it was posted in July 2009, but it was deleted during an upgrade to the SPR website in January 2010. It is a brief review of a play which featured the SPR and which toured prior to a successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2009 .

SPR gets supporting part in a new play

Hayton on Homicide

A play by J. M. Golder

It is Cambridge, 1883, and Professor Hayton is working in his study, or vainly trying to because his wife Florence insists on reporting strange nocturnal goings-on at the house of their neighbours Mr and Mrs Kentwell. Fired by conversations with her friend Mrs Sidgwick of the newly-formed Society for Psychical Research, Mrs Hayton believes herself to have psychic powers, and is convinced the mysterious opening of the Kentwells’ cupboards is caused by a poltergeist. Hayton is fond of his wife, but as a rationalist is sceptical of her beliefs. Yet undoubtedly there are strange things happening at their friends’ house, which are driving poor Mrs Kentwell to despair. The professor knows he will get no peace to carry out his own research into the equally new science of fingerprints until he looks into it. But whose methods are the best for these deep waters: his, or his wife’s?

Mixing mystery and humour in a fast-paced narrative, this new play by J. M. Golder captures the atmosphere of Cambridge when psychical research was a new discipline striving for scientific respectability. I personally found it very entertaining, and it was nice to hear the SPR given a number of name-checks. After an extremely successful trial at Cambridge’s ADC theatre, the play is going to the Edinburgh Fringe, where it will appear at the Royal College of Surgeons from 7 - 29 August. For further details, see