The Quality of Mercy is a one-man show taken from the perspective of Dr Harold Shipman who was convicted of the murder of over 200 individuals over the course of several years. This play is being shown at the Space @ Surgeons hall.
The Quality of Mercy is masterfully constructed and superbly performed. In his prison cell, Dr Shipman speaks of his life and what he called his ‘gift’ and ‘life’s work’. This show has clearly been researched and Edwin Flay has invested a lot in this show and it pays off. Flay’s performance of Shipman shows us how what originally started out as a desire to help those in terminal pain became a twisted, monstrous obsession with control over life and death and the unchecked, rampant development of an extensive, dangerous ego. Through Flay’s performance we see Shipman, at several points, fighting even with his own self as he starts to let his temper get the better of him.
The Quality of Mercy is an unflinching study of a man whose arrogance and ruthless determination to control everyone led to the murder of hundreds. More than once, Shipman mentions other prolific serial killers and very firmly indicates he believes them to be animals and not even the same species as him. This show explores the justification that Shipman provided to himself and is a must see for those interested in the psychology of serial killers.
Flay should be commended not just for the strength he demonstrates in exploring something so personally connected to him and his family, but also for a portrayal that is surprisingly free of bias. Throughout, Flay demonstrates time and again his exceptional skills as a performer, bearing the weight of such a role with gravitas. The shift between narrative and memories is flawless and the scene where Shipman is giving morphine to one of his victims is chilling to the core and becomes more emotional because the victim was Flay’s grandmother.
The Quality of Mercy is one of the best shows at the Fringe this year and the entire team behind its creation and presentation have taken on the duty of a matter that is still within recent memory with great sensitivity.