• Date:
    Tuesday, June 6, 2000

    The story concerns a celebrated author called Mark Styler who specialises in novels about mass-murders. He arrives at 'Fairfields', an experimental hospital for the criminally insane, hoping to get an interview with serial killer Eastman for his next novel. When he arrives he has to persuade Dr Farquhar to agree to allow him to interview Eastman. However, there is something odd about Dr Farquhar who one minute refuses to allow such an interview and attempts to send the author away and then changes his mind and starts to probe the author with his own strange questions. Then to add to this mystery, Nurse Plimpton, behaves oddly, seeming afraid of Dr Farquhar, and secretly attempting to put a note into the hand of Mark Styler. However, the nightmare begins when, for some extraordinary reason, Styler agrees to try on a straight jacket!!

    Oh dear, I really don't like to be too horrible, but to be frank this is a load of old cods wallop! It has been a long time since I've seen such rubbish on the West End. The drama's twists and turns were basically predictable. Horowitz's attempts to shock and chill turns into a complete farce -the nearest I got to feeling a chill was from the ice in the Coca-Cola I drank during the interval. However, there were a few scenes that were both disturbing and shocking, but these were mainly acts of violence upon another, that would disturb and shock any decent person. Unfortunately, the mystery and tense moments never really emerged, mainly because the plot and the idiosyncratic behaviour of the characters were just not believable. It feels as if Horowitz's has written this thriller without any thought of 'real' mystery and surprise. The whole play seems to rest on the premise that those that write about mass-murderers are themselves excited by it and are secretly lusting to do it themselves, which I find quite pathetic!!

    I really feel sorry for the cast who had to act in this 'torture for the audience' play. Simon Ward as 'Dr Farquhar does his best to make the doctor seem a little odd, and Christopher Blake also performs as well as he could considering the script. Poor Helen Hobson had to play the completely unbelievable character of 'Nurse Plimpton' in such a way I fear she may never get another acting job. Maybe she should stick to musicals!!

    I don't like to be too harsh on new plays as I know a lot of work and effort has been given by many. But out of respect for my readers I have to fully express how awful and insulting to one's intelligence this play is.

    I may not like the play, but the popular press didn't mind it too much, except for NICHOLAS DE JONGH of THE EVENING STANDARD who says, "When it came to suffering, the real, hard work was done by an audience condemned to watch this strident, silly piffle." However, PETER HEPPLE for THE STAGE says, "Of course it is all rather silly at the end, the playwright having contrived a conclusion which is not unexpected, but still oddly unsatisfying. But, as the title says, this is a mindgame, and we must except the play as such." CHARLES SPENCER for THE DAILY TELEGRAGH liked the play describing it as an "Highly entertaining schlock-horror show." He goes on to say , "Richard Baron's production, wittily designed by Ken Harrison, combines efficient slasher thrills 'n' chills with outbreaks of pitch-black humour." JEREMY KINGSTON for THE TIMES says, "Some plays are merely absurd and the quicker they limp to the final curtain the better. But some are enjoyably absurd and such a one is Anthony Horowitz's Mindgame at the Vaudeville."

    The play is booking to September, personally I give it less than a month. For the sake of the shows backers I hope I'm wrong, for the unsuspecting pundits I hope I'm right!!

    (Darren Dalglish)

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