Mindgame, Ambassadors Theatre – Review

As a show that’s bookended by the strains of Pink Floyd’s Brain Damage from The Dark Side Of The Moon (an inspired choice of music) Anthony Horowitz’s Mindgame certainly signposts its intentions. The last time the West End was home to a play with such overt meta- overtures was Ira Lewin’s literary thriller Deathtrap in 2010.

Mindgame 3 - photocredit, Simon Cooper - Resize
Mark Styler (Andrew Ryan) / All photos © Simon Cooper

Directed by Karen Henson, the play begins in Fairfields Hospital in Suffolk, which houses a number of residents who are criminally insane. Mark Styler (Andrew Ryan) waits in the office of Dr Alex Farquhar (Michael Sherwin), the director who runs the hospital. However, Styler grows impatient, as he’s been kept waiting for two hours. Around the office he notices a number of artefacts – books in alphabetical order, an expensive bottle of wine, a skeleton, a portrait of the previous director in charge and the view to palatial gardens on the hospital’s grounds. Of themselves they aren’t extraordinary, but over the course of the play, things occur – things that will make you question your memory…

Styler wants to interview one of the patients (‘Easterman’) for his new book, but Farquhar is resistant to the idea. However, once Styler reveals why he REALLY wants to see Easterman, the play shifts up a gear and to borrow a phrase from Alice In Wonderland, Styler ‘goes down the rabbit hole’…

Mindgame 4 - photocredit, Simon Cooper - Resize
Sarah Wynne Kordas, Andrew Ryan and Michael Sherwin

As the ‘liaison’ between the two men, Nurse Paisley (Sarah Wynne Kordas) is in many ways the linchpin of the tale, and whose true nature holds the key to the truth. Anyone who has seen Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island will have a fair idea of what to expect in terms of twists and turns, and plot development. Sherwin as the enigmatic Farquhar sustains the sense of unease throughout the play. Meanwhile, as the ‘outsider’ in Fairfields, Ryan is the audience’s eyes and ears, and grounds the play (at least initially) in a relatable reality.

Mindgame 1 - Resize - photocredit, Simon Cooper

Had the play not been advertised as a psychological thriller, I dare say the ‘surprises’ would have a greater impact. Even so, it’s enjoyable as a ‘homage’ to true crime and the dark side of the human condition. As you watch the show, keep an eye out for the arrangement of the room – especially any projected digital imagery…

© Michael Davis 2018

Threestars

Mindgame runs at the Ambassadors Theatre, London until 2nd June.

https://www.theambassadorstheatre.co.uk/Online/

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