A fascinating new play about a Victorian doctor who could have been Britain’s first known serial killer is coming to Broadstairs.
What’s Your Poison? is a true-crime murder mystery and is the first play by journalist and author Steve Orme.
It features 19th century medic William Palmer who allegedly poisoned a number of people including his wife, his alcoholic brother, his mother-in-law and four of his children.
Steve said: “I’ve been captivated by this story for more than a decade. There’s no doubt he was a rogue, a gambler and a womaniser who defrauded his mother out of thousands of pounds. But was he a serial killer?”
The play is seen from two perspectives: the atmospheric Victorian era with the doctor, his family and his trial, and a contemporary viewpoint with a young couple eager to explore whether Palmer’s conviction for murdering a close friend was a miscarriage of justice.
Steve said: “I used to work in television and ten years ago I produced a trailer for a documentary. I turned this into a stage play and sent it to Rumpus Theatre Company whose work I was familiar with. They lapped it up and decided to mount a tour.”
John Goodrum from Rumpus, who will direct What’s Your Poison? explained: “It fitted in with my fascination for everything to do with Victorian gothic horror, both fictional and factual. It’s certainly in the Rumpus tradition and it’s got a delicious final twist.”
Steve, who is working on his second crime novel, said he became intrigued with the story of the man known as the Prince of Poisoners when a friend alerted him to it.
He said: “It’s a gripping tale. A wax effigy of Palmer was displayed in the Chamber of Horrors at Madame Tussauds for more than 120 years. When Palmer was on trial Charles Dickens described him as ‘the greatest villain that ever stood in the Old Bailey.’
“But where is the evidence? Palmer was hanged for the murder of John Parsons Cook who was supposed to have been poisoned with strychnine – but at his post-mortem examination no strychnine was found in his body
“Audiences can make up their own minds as to how many people William Palmer poisoned – if any.”
What’s Your Poison will be at the Sarah Thorne Theatre, Broadstairs, on Saturday 4th November at 7.30pm.
Tickets are £17 in advance, plus £1 booking fee, or £19 on the door.
Bookings at: https://www.sarahthornetheatre.co.uk/book