Theatre Royal, Nottingham
Runs: 2h 0m: one interval: till 15 June
The thinking person’s thriller.
Whoever’s in charge of NHS services in Suffolk, the setting for Mindgame, ought to see this production – only kidding. However implausible of plot, it’s an ingenious, twisting and turning thriller. Moreover, along with its horrifying subject matter, it generates a bit of black laughter.
A trashy true-crime writer Mark Styler (Andrew Ryan) arrives at a high security hospital for the criminally insane in that county to interview a serial-killing cannibal for his next book. But the Principal, Dr Farquhar (Michael Sherwin), is disturbingly evasive, and reluctant to cooperate. Soon the appearance of Nurse Paisley (Angie Smith) complicates matters.
The play doesn’t simply entertain; it invites you to ponder on deep and unsettling ideas. Are progressive psychiatric techniques complete tosh? Is an enthusiastic cannibal-killer mad or bad, or both? What precisely is insanity and how can anyone demonstrate to everyone else that he or she isn’t completely deranged? And the play makes you wonder what is or is not real.
Right from the start there’s something about the Principal’s office that isn’t quite right: the anatomical skeleton and the phrenological head, for instance, seem a bit set-piece and obvious. Later, apparently unnoticed by Styler, Farquhar or Paisley, a portrait on the wall alters during the course of the action, a brick wall outside the window steadily gets higher, and house plants start to run riot.
And screams, and incongruously corny snatches of musical standards are heard from elsewhere in the establishment.
All three performances are classy. Most notably, Sherwin’s, as the pompous but enigmatic Principal might be even better than the one delivered in the same role, same venue, three years back. Ryan’s ranges from laid-back cockiness to broken-down hysteria, and all points in between. And Smith’s agitated and bolshie Nurse Paisley is splendid – it being a thriller, to say more would give the game away.
This one is the perfect antidote to the everlasting political shenanigans and rain we’ve been having lately.
Styler: Andrew Ryan
Farquhar: Michael Sherwin
Nurse Paisley: Angie Smith
Director: Karen Henson
Designer: Sarah Wynne Kordas
Sound Designer: David Gilbrook
Lighting Designer: Michael Donoghue