Thursday, 18 May 2017

REVIEW: Mindgame at the Theatre Royal Windsor

It is always a delight to visit a venue with no expectations or preconceived ideas about a play and leave enthusing about a great piece of theatre. There was only one reason for going to Windsor and that was that the play was authored by someone with the pedigree of Anthony Horowitz. As fans of the TV shows Foyles War, Poirot and Midsummer murders we knew his work in novels and TV but not for the stage.

The play is set in the office of Alex Farquhar at Fairfield Hospital in Suffolk, a high security mental institution for serial killers where we meet Styler, a journalist who has already written about other high profile serial killers and is waiting to meet Farquhar to ask permission to interview to interview an inmate Easterman. Farquhar uses a new therapy to work with his patents which involves mind games but theatrically this play also plays mind games with the audience observing the action in the office through the fourth wall two way mirrors. Nothing is as it seems.

Styler is played with a cold steely stare by Andrew Ryan, who we know as one of the best Pantomime Dames in the business over the last 26 year. Here without his usually wigs, make up and frocks he turns from cool calm visitor to bemused interviewer and ultimately frightened potential victim and is on stage throughout the production. In the opening scene Styler points out the features of the room and gradually as the play develops every element has a meaning and impact on the characters.

His main protagonist in these mind games is Michael Sherwin as the psychologist Farquhar who seems strangely unfamiliar with his own office but whose behaviour becomes increasingly threatening as he tries to manipulate the situation to reveal dark secrets. His changes of tone and actions create a menacing presence.

He is assisted by Sarah Wynne Kordas as Nurse Paisley who oddly seems more familiar with Farquhar’s desk than he does and adds to the mind games and uncertainty in both Styler’s mind and the audiences. She is also credited with
the clever set design which is almost the fourth character in the play as it is ever changing as the play develops. In the second half this becomes almost too distracting as you notice the subtle unsettling changes taking place. 

The writing is clever, the twists and turns surprising and the references to real life and movie killers gives the story an edge as our own pre knowledge becomes part of the mind games. Although running only 1 hour 40 minutes, this is an enjoyable thriller which is worth catching on its short tour.

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★★★
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