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Watermill Theatre - Burke and Hare

24th April to 5th May 2018, and on tour

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

A gruesome twosome

Dark comedy Burke and Hare at The Watermill and on tour

Burke and Hare, at The Watermill, Bagnor, and touring villages until May 5

Burke and Hare were notorious body snatchers who fed the insatiable demand to provide cadavers for the Edinburgh Medical School during the early 1800s.

Tom Wentworth has created a highly-enjoyable black comedy, exploring the grisly circumstances surrounding these two grave-robbers.

When the source of bodies dried up, the two lazy Irish entrepreneurs set out on a murderous path, following their success in selling their first victim Donald, who died in their house. They used the influenza epidemic sweeping Edinburgh as their cover, as then there would be few questions asked as to how they got hold of the bodies. Toots Butcher's inventive set perfectly creates the atmosphere, with blood-splattered curtains covering the entrances and anatomical drawings on the wall – plus quite a few surprises. The subtitle Every Body Makes A Profit is most apt.

The three highly-talented actors energetically play a myriad of characters, created by a subtle change of accent or costume, and all achieved at breathtaking speed. They even created the illusion of off-stage characters that was hilarious.

Katy Daghorn was splendid as the horrid Mrs Burke and also played the domineering Dr Monro, who narrated this tawdry tale.

Alex Parry powerfully played the cocky, conceited William Hare. At one point he had to play an entire family, including a parrot, with perfect comic timing.

He dominated his partner-in-crime William Burke – an impressive performance by Hayden Wood, who also played Dr Knox with conviction. Music plays a large part in the production and these two actors provided the rousing songs on the mandolin and guitar, featuring the folk song Whisky in the Jar. In fact, alcohol dominated much of the play.

Abigail Pickard Price imaginatively directs this tongue-in-cheek, witty and very funny play. It is filled with visual comedy and more than a hint towards vaudeville.

When the cast ran out of actors they managed to persuade an audience member to help them by playing a cadaver – all great fun. This highly entertaining production tours to village halls until the end of May – don't miss it.


There are reviews from The Stage ("a fast-paced piece of vaudeville complete with audience participation, foot tapping songs, snappy visual gags and an abundance of comedy accents" - 3 stars), the Henley Standard ("a beautifully constructed piece... a virtuoso display of comic acting, singing and music... vigorous, fast-paced production"), The Spy In The Stalls ("an amusing and brisk take on a sinister true crime that is to be recommended" - 4stars), Pocket Size Theatre ("a lively and fun production, perhaps fifteen minutes too long" - 3 stars), Daily Info ("another rollickingly good night at the Watermill... the production feels gifted to have such a talented triptych at its core... makes a convincing case for productions that tour to areas removed from established theatres. Bravo to the Watermill Theatre for another stellar show").