Redbrick Editor William Baxter reviews the engrossing and unique political drama, This House, at the REP.Written by William Baxter on 18th April 2018
Review: Mindgame at the Belgrade, Coventry
Culture critic Madeline McInnis reviews Mindgame at the Belgrade, Coventry.
This week, the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry is putting on their version of Mindgame, a play written by Anthony Horowitz and set in an asylum. The plot follows the novel of the same name and has Styler, a best-selling true-crime writer, visiting Fairfields Hospital in his attempt to interview notorious serial killer George Easterman. Firstly, he must go through the ‘standoffish’ Dr. Farquhar, and everything gets just a bit more intense when Nurse Paisley shows up.
The set was really quite interesting. Throughout, little details changed, with the audience challenged to notice. With the entire play taking place within one room (the office of Dr. Farquhar) there must have been a bit of ‘theatre magic’ going on to pull off these tricks, which made it all the more impressive.
“'Watch for the little things... by the end, you should be questioning the very world of the play itself'
These little changes in the set helped to evoke a mysterious atmosphere, and most of the time, they were not addressed at all, making them seem like tricks on the mind. It made the audience wonder what had been deliberately placed on stage, what needed to be questioned and interpreted, what was placed for the audience’s benefit only, and what the characters were oblivious to. Watch for the little things. Without giving anything away and ruining the fun, remember that everything that is placed on stage is there for a reason, and that by the end, you should be questioning the very world of the play itself.
The performance is a fun mind-game, where you are constantly encouraged to notice small changes. It is just unfortunate that this clever set is paired with a storyline that at times feels lacklustre - I can’t help but feel that Mindgame works much better as a novel than a stage play. There were several lines, especially in the opening of the play, where there was simply too much exposition to feel natural, such as when Styler describes the world outside of the window, and the performance continued to demonstrate uninspired and clunky ways of transferring description onto the stage which often didn’t seem to work. It would have benefited from a subtler approach.
Those who have read the novel will know that Mindgame has an incredibly promising concept – think Mulholland Drive meets Silence of the Lambs – but in drawing these comparisons, I highlight the problem. There is little story-wise that has not been seen in other works, meaning the plot feels overdone, and the stage-adaptation with its reliance on dramatic action draws attention to this.
“'there was no real way to get involved in figuring out the mystery before the characters reveal it to you...'
The acting was, at times, melodramatic. This was no fault of the actors specifically, rather the fact that the characters of this play at time feel like tropes with little background or believability. When the plot reached one of its violent peaks, for example, which was clearly supposed to be an intense scene, the audience were laughing rather than scared. It was completely contradictory. The ending of the play was equally frustrating, like every frustrating, mystery you’ve ever read or seen. The point of this performance is to make you feel confused, to doubt what we are seeing and being told, but there was no real way to get involved in figuring out the mystery before the characters reveal it to you, meaning confusion continued long after the resolutions of the ending, particularly as we were led to distrust them all along.
Is it worth the trip down to Coventry? Probably not. Although the quirkiness and originality of the set is interesting and engaging, the poor writing overshadows it. Mindgame, the novel, has quite a good score on Goodreads though, so perhaps it’s worth the read, just not the watch.
More information on Mindgame can be found here.