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Mindgame @ Wycombe Swan Theatre

Published by: Trevor Gent on 8th Mar 2018 | View all blogs by Trevor Gent

Set in a remote lunatic asylum it hardly sounds a laugh a minute, but one of the (many) surprises of Anthony Horowitz’s sly and slippery play is that it invites us to laugh at the whole thriller genre. It is still dark though, exploring murder, madness, and evil, and questions what motivates people to commit terrible crimes. Nothing can be taken for granted, from the name of a pet Labrador to the identities of the three main characters.


Andrew Ryan plays Styler, a writer of gory serial killer biographies who’s come to Fairfield’s asylum to interview his latest subject. His path is blocked by Dr Farquhar (the Q is silent) played by Michael Sherwin, who seems reluctant to trust Styler, and even more reluctant to let him leave. Sarah Wynne Kordas plays Paisley (although it is while before we actually see her). Rather surprisingly having volunteered to don a straight jacket, he is trapped in a nightmare world that’s steeped in references to famous thrillers.


There are murders behind curtains, intercepted notes of warning, echoing screams, jerky snatches of tinny music, and questionable liver sandwiches. It’s all piled on so thickly that you soon realise you’re watching a kind of pastiche of the thriller genre – one that exploits our fascination with tales of murder and lunacy.


The play is set in a single room but things are never quite what they seem with doors turning into cupboards, and various difference between the acts and the brick wall slowly building in the background. The atmosphere is tense and you have to keep your wits about you to keep track of what is going on. However I won’t give it all away and certainly won’t tell you the ending like some reviewers (otherwise what is the point of going to see it?).


After watching this play the famous Nick Ross quote from Crimewatch came to mind

"Don't have nightmares, do sleep well”. Thankfully I did!


If you missed it at the Wycombe Swan there are still some performances to go:


March 14-17, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry
March 19-24, Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds



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