Review: Darkness and grand entertainment in Horowitz thriller at the Belgrade

Nick Le Mesurier reviews Mindgame at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

Mindgame is set in an upmarket asylum
Mindgame is set in an upmarket asylum

The setting for this stylish thriller is an upmarket asylum for the criminally insane. Through a window we see pleasant gardens, reminiscent of a National Trust property. The action takes place in the office of Dr Farquhar (Michael Sherwin), who heads up this taxpayer paid retreat, and whose visitor, Mark Styler, is a writer of true crime books, who wants to interview Farquhar’s most notorious inmate, Easterman. Only things aren’t quite right. Farquhar has no idea who Styler is and refers to a Happy Eater restaurant he might have passed on the way, a company that went out of business years ago. Nurse Paisley (Sarah Wynne Kordas) enters, but she seems terrified of the doctor and tries to slip Styler a note. Somehow Farquhar gets Styler to wear a straight-jacket. This is a place where the lunatics would appear to have taken over the asylum, quite literally.

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I have to say the first half left me feeling rather underwhelmed, and conscious that TV now does psychological drama so much better than stage. But the second half redeemed the play mightily, and the clichés of crime fiction were made to fall into new and quite unexpected places. This is a clever drama, replete with a shifting pattern of clues, and you come to realise you’ve been led into some very dark places indeed.

To explain much more would be to give away the plot, which has a satisfying twist and reveals a lot more depth than was at first apparent. It’s grand entertainment and holds a mirror up to our notions of sanity and our penchant for violent crime stories.