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The Dead Move Fast



Two Policemen are called out to a remote asylum to investigate the disappearance of a missing patient.


A zany comedy thriller. Set in the twilight world of 1950’s pulp this creepy satire twists and turns towards a terrifying finale.


I wrote this play as a dark comedy thriller set in 1950’s England. It’s a dark comedy thriller but also ironic in tone and philosophical in nature.

Production History

First presented as Cell G159 at Edinburgh Festival 2000 it received a showcase presentation at The Arts Theatre, West End by arrangement with William Morris and Edward Snape of Firey Angel. The play was revived the following year produced by Karen Koren (Artistsic director of The Gilded Balloon). Its title was changed to The Dead Move Fast and the role of Dr. Mallinson was played by Sylvester McCoy.


The play was first published by Oberon Books Ltd in 2006.

Paperback: 96 pages
Publisher: Oberon Books Ltd (7 Nov 2006)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1840027134
ISBN-13: 978-1840027136


"The Stark shadows and cold vaults of the cave make the perfect venue for this creepy satire on Fifties mystery thrillers, with their overtones of Orwellian power struggles. Godfrey Hutton has escaped from Manor Hall, home for the criminally insane, and two policemen arrive to investigate. The scene is quickly set for a chilling tour of “the grounds,” brilliantly conjured up through dialogue."

"Even without the subtle humour and allusion, this play would entertain as a thought provoking exploration of madness. The Inspector’s salient observations and the classic plot twist underline the grim possibilities behind cheap gags and painful puns. The cast are magnificent in this latest offering from playwright Paul Sellar, acting with just a touch of cool irony. The script is eloquent and poetic, guiding us through dark forests, dangerous marshes and the lonely corridors of the asylum. This comic psychological whodunit is a must for all lovers of the macabre." 

Jonathan Preminger
The Evening News

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"Clever slapstick and snappy lines revive the spirit of Ealing Comedy. In the spirit of Stoppards Inspector Hound and Shaffer’s Black comedy this play shows there are still a few more drops to be squeezed out the lemon yet. This slick spoof set in a 1950’s mental asylum concerns an escaped patient and the hunt to recapture him. The eerie venue, part cave, part church, part lair, amply provides the atmospherics for this tale. Then - out of nowhere - come a barrage of gags and puns."

"The strong cast give a confident pastiche of 1950’s film acting style. Inventive use of movable flats allows the cast to cut from one location to another, as they creep through the asylum, along ghostly ramparts or through fog shrouded forests. The play succeeds as both comedy and thriller. Its red herrings, twists in the tale and cases of mistaken identity keep you guessing right up until the end"

The Scotsman


“A rib tickling comedy full of surprise… more twists than a rattlesnake on laughing gas. A gem.”

The Daily Mail - Top 5 Edinburgh Festival Show (No.3)

"A Machiavellian play with enough labyrinthine twists to fox Thesues. Clever... slick... ingenious. Impossible to pin down it continually defies expectation gripping the audience through a host of surprises... Laughter is uncomfortable but unavoidable."

Zoe Green
The Independent

“An unexpected gem. This piece of new writing by Paul Sellar takes us back to a nameless night in November 1955 when a certain Doctor Mallinson calls out two local police officers to investigate a missing patient at his Manor Hall maximum security home for the criminally insane. All the action takes place within the grounds of Manor Hall. A description of night in its beautiful open grounds (encircled by a vast electrified barrier) is eloquently incorporated into the script. Vivid in the imagination yet without losing touch with of the actual dank claustrophobic atmosphere of the cellar. This is deliberate and highly evocative as is the fascinating thread of entrances and exits between the five players as the deeply ambiguous events of the night unfold. Perhaps ‘infold’ would be a more accurate word. The style of writing is mannered and darkly comic. An opening dependence upon puns at first seems gratuitous, though amusing. But the instability of language soon turns out to be functional (in the dysfunctional sense) and effective. Eventually no one can be quite certain who is hunting who, who is telling the truth, or even what terrible crime might have been committed. The closing minutes genuinely surprise. Excellently paced. Small but brilliant. “ 

Colin Donati
Edinburgh Guide Review

"A mindbender of a play. Simple but oh so effective. Ingenious... clever... funny... the mood of this thriller is boosted by Greg Lake's powerful score."

The Stage

"This is a dark and at times sinister play but this is tempered by the witty word play which peppers Paul Sellar’s incisive script. An entertaining and insightful foray into the nature of identity."

Dawn Kofie
The List (Critic's Choice - The Hit List)
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"In Paul Sellar’s world nothing is what it seems. This is grim fairy tale of madness and identity. The plot twists and turns like a rabid fox. There is humour but it is bitter like a rotten apple. The play itself is like a black rose. Beautiful yet ominous."

Radio Forth


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