Mind game (noun): a course of psychologically manipulative behaviour intended to discomfit another person or gain an advantage over them.
Just like its title, writer Anthony Horowitz seeks to trick and manipulate the audience from the outset. Mindgame is a murder-by-numbers, B movie cliché, where every twist and turn is so frustratingly obvious and overacted, many people leave after the first half. DON’T. In the penultimate 10 minutes, Horowitz proves why he is one of the most prolific and successful writers in the UK, with every unoriginal, unbelievable stereotype purely a façade – his own little ‘mind game’ – and a diversion for something much more unexpected.
Set in Fairfields Hospital, a notorious asylum for the criminally insane, Mindgame follows true crime writer, Mark Styler (Andrew Ryan) as he attempts to gain access to infamous serial killer, Easterman. Standing in his way are Dr Alex Farquhar (Michael Sherwin), the incongruous head of Fairfields and agitated colleague, Nurse Paisley (Sarah Wynne Kordas).
Despite their heinous crimes, serial killers have always generated widespread fascination in society. One of the reasons for this is their apparent normality; often appearing as charming, upstanding members of the community. Mindgame explores this idea, challenging the audience’s idea of insanity and madness. Did the view from outside the window just change? Wasn’t there a broom closet behind that door? That portrait definitely just winked at me. As the play progresses, it’s obvious these changes are deliberate and reflective of the ridiculous nature of the piece, however, when first used, set designer Sarah Wynne Kordas (yes, that is Nurse Paisley) is successful in making the audience question what is real and what is fantasy.
The demand for instant gratification in today’s world means director Karen Henson takes a huge risk. Whether the hammy acting is deliberate or not (will give them the benefit of the doubt), it’s a brave choice for all involved. Stick it out and be rewarded with a unique and unpredictable piece of theatre that challenges everything you think you know.