Digital review: The Quality of Mercy

Staged at the Courtyard Theatre and now available on Scenesaver, this solo play is deeply personal and unrelenting in its depiction of the last message of serial killer Dr Harold Shipman.

Edwin Flay, who is both writer and performer of this play, has a deep connection with Shipman’s crimes – his own grandmother was one of the victims.

You may feel at the start that Shipman’s motives were understandable; indeed, these are the arguments used for legal euthanasia, the right to remove unbearable pain .

Screencap from The Quality of Mercy

However, as Flay’s script progresses, it is clear that Shipman is tightening his own metaphorical noose by indulging his ego and his choice to ‘play God’.

On a video wall behind, each victim’s name is highlighted until we see a sea of names – each one a person who deserved to live, not to be dispatched without a thought.

For a doctor to have operated as a killer for nearly three decades (Shipman was the GP of a family friend in Hyde, who reported that he was “lovely”) without any suspicion is chilling.

Screencap from The Quality of Mercy

This performance is mesmerising, but it won’t be this twisted and pathetic individual you will remember after the credits roll, but that wall of victims, for whom Shipman played both judge and jury.

A modern horror story that nevertheless treats the victims with respect, with meticulous research on each, letting them have the voice they were denied.

Far from an easy watch, this show condemns its subject who eqates “help’ with ‘elation’ and hus professional skill as a grotesque ‘gift’.

Screencap from The Quality of Mercy

As a digital piece, one thing that would have made this more chilling and effective would be to include the names on the screen as we watch. An occasional camera pull-back is not the same.

I imagine sitting in the auditorium watching as the video screen grows more and more crowded gave a significant emotional heft to The Quality of Mercy.

You can watch The Quality of Mercy, directed by Bernie C Byrnes on Scenesaver now.