Mindgame – Sutton Arts Theatre

mindgame

*****
Author Anthony Horowitz is one of the most prolific and successful multi- media writers around, writing books, TV series, films, and plays . His best known work includes the bestselling teen spy series Alex Rider , and TV series Midsomer Murders, and Foyles War.

Mindgame was originally written as a novel, before Horowitz adapted it for the stage, premiering in Colchester in 1999 before transferring to the West End in 2000. A taut psychological thriller, it is particularly well suited for the tight close spaces of amateur theatre.

With just four characters, this is a demanding production for the cast. Mark Styler is a brash young writer, determined to visit notorious serial killer Easterman as research for a book he is writing. Dr Farquar is not keen to facilitate the interview, Nurse Plimpton is a strangely anxious nurse in attendance.

What follows is a twisting exploration of the public’s fascination with murder, sadism and serial killers. What separates those who enjoy reading about it, to those who do it? Who is interviewing who ( whom…) ? Who is the victim? Who are the guilty parties? Coming out of the theatre audiences will also namecheck Quentin Tarantino, such is the clever dialogue, and macabre, dark, turns.

This is a particularly difficult play to review without revealing key plot developments. What I can say is that if you like twisting psychological thrillers, you will love this production.

Ben Field delivers a fine, nuanced performance including many difficult soliloquies. Joseph Flanagan is a marvellous foil as his inner self is revealed. Liz Webster plays a supporting, but vital role, and is frighteningly vulnerable when cornered.

Theatre goers should be aware that there are some very convincing violent scenes, but that they are lightened by a witty, wry, erudite, contemporary script . It has the audience laughing out loud both to relieve tension, and to enjoy some waspish black humour. The durability of a Marks & Spencer shopping bag has surely rarely been similarly tested. Suffolk audiences will require a sense of humour.

Director Vida Green has done a fabulous job. Technically, it is a challenging show, and with many extended speeches, keeping the audience engaged is a constant concern. Fortunately her cast are superb providing no weak links, just wonderfully compelling performances. The intimate atmosphere of the physical theatre is exploited marvellously as we become part of events unfolding at Fairfields Hospital. John Islip and his team have constructed a credible hospital set which remains in situ for the duration with only minor amendments.

An unusually edgy choice by Sutton Arts, a choice which was wholly vindicated by the response from an audience who were captivated by the play’s progress, and who demonstrated their appreciation by more laughs than I have heard in many comedies, and a rousing reception at the end.

Mindgame runs till 31st October, I suggest that liver is off the menu for dinner beforehand.

Gary Longden

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