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Review of Mindgame by Masque Theatre at the Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

After clocking up over two hundred and fifty theatre reviews in less than three years, I nonchalantly thought that any show I have thrown at me, I can confidently cover. That was before I went to see Masque Theatre's production of the Anthony Horowitz play Mindgame last evening. A cast of three weave you into a mysterious web, where absolutely nothing is what it seems and leaves a terrified reviewer the prospect of trying not to reveal those weaves. I am of course bold and brave(ish) though, so this will not trouble me. Too much.

First performed in 1999, Mindgame sees true crime writer Mark Styler (William Portch) arrive at the optimistically named mental institution Fairfields. His target is to meet, interview, profile, and tell the life story of inmate Easterman, a notorious serial killer. In charge at the hospital is Dr. Farquhar (Vince Perry), a bold presence, but surprisingly confused character to be in charge of such important patients. Completing our cast of characters is the nervy Nurse Paisley (Gemma Knight), for medical and tea providing duties.

That pretty much is all it would be fair to reveal regarding this quite ingenious play, as it twists and turns leaving the audience unsure, sure, unsure, certain and then perhaps bewildered before an ending perhaps almost on a par with films like The Sixth Sense and one that leaves you totally satisfied, but maybe unsure?

The cast of three are all superb and create completely convincing characters. Portch is excellent as Styler, portraying the confidence that the ambitious writer needs, yet also willing to go along with the more foolish whims of Farquhar. Horowitz makes the character deliberately slow at times, to allow the audience to be one step ahead of him.

I really liked Perry as Farquhar, really strong in both character and demeanour, but with a lightness of touch that makes the comic moments more funny than you feel they should be. However that is the point of this play, as there is a lot of uncomfortable humour, but you should (and do) laugh despite yourself.

Finally, we have Gemma Knight, who harks wonderfully back to the very first Masque I saw, No Way Out. Again she is excellent as Nurse Paisley, all twitchy and desperate to reveal some mystery, and laying on the comic side glances with relish. Without question, she throws herself fully into the role.

As well as the cast, there is quite a bit of life in Dr Farquhar's office set. To reveal exactly what happens would be unnecessary, however nothing is what it seems, and both stage manager Jo Molyneux and assistant Ed Toone, as well as tech man Philip Welsh need to be congratulated on this one, in their adding of the fourth character in this play.

Director Pat Bancroft keeps a tight reign on proceedings, making sure the action stays flowing with no extraneous moments to distract. This all allows the play to be a breeze to follow, and is just the way I personally like my theatre viewing to be.

So, a fascinating and thought-provoking play which has at its core some really funny moments, and more than a hint of politics about it. A superb cast easily create one of my favourite Masque productions so far. Quite brilliantly dark and delightful.

Performance reviewed: Thursday 20th October, 2016 at the Playhouse Theatre, Northampton. 
Mindgame runs until Saturday 22nd October, 2016 at the Playhouse Theatre, Northampton.

Details can be found at http://www.masquetheatre.co.uk/

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