Mindgame is a mind-bending psychological thriller from the pen of Anthony Horowitz – creator of Foyle’s War, the BBC’s New Blood, Alex Rider, the Sherlock Holmes novels House of Silk and Moriarty and the James Bond novel Trigger Mortis.
When Mark Styler, a true crime writer, tries to get an interview with Easterman, a notorious serial killer, he has no idea what he’s walking into. First he has to get past Dr Farquhar, the quixotic head of Fairfields – the asylum where Easterman is kept.
But soon he discovers that nothing is what it seems. Who is the mysterious Borson? Where did he get the meat in the fridge? And why isn’t the skeleton in the closet?
Michael Sherwin has been playing the good doctor in the triple-hander since its 2016 revival as part of a season at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham.
‘We did five plays in four weeks and this was the last one of those. It was such a huge learn, and myself and Andrew Ryan, who was also in it just thought: “Hm, this might have legs.”
From there it underwent a successful UK and had a run in the West End at The Ambassadors Theatre last summer, before heading back on the road again this spring.
‘We do enjoying it so much, it’s good fun to do. It had been the same trio of actors up until now, but we’ve got a new woman coming in, Angie Smith, who’s actually from Portsmouth.’
Given Horowitz’s Midas touch with so many other things, Mindgame was actually a flop when it made its debut in 2000.
‘It got quite bad reviews at the time and I think it rather upset him so he put it in the back of a drawer and thought, I’m never going to do plays again.
‘But it has been done since in smaller locations, and Ken Russell did a version of it in New York, but in the last two years we’ve had nothing but good reviews everywhere we’ve been with it.
‘He actually came to see it when we were in Windsor, which was a bit scary, but he told us this was what he expected, this is how I expected it to be done! So what the others did with it, I don’t know.
‘He’s a very clever writer. He said he wanted to see if he could bamboozle a theatre audience with just three actors, and to be fair we’re still finding things that we go: “Oh god, that means that,” even two years on. Quite a lot of things happen but you’re not sure you’ve seen what you think you’ve seen. Sometimes the set gets better reviews than we do, because there’s lots of things going on.
‘I think we got a lot of people who come because of Horowitz’s reputation, Foyle’s War and that kind of stuff, and we get quite a lot of people asking is it suitable for my 12 year old?
‘Well, there’s no swearing in it, but it is about a serial killer. My nephew and niece came to see it and they were quite young, and they enjoyed it, but it’s not like Alex Rider – his books which appeal to youngsters.
‘It’s for people who like a good story and a play that makes you think. A lot of people think they’ve worked it out by the interval, but then they quickly realise in the second half that they hadn’t at all.’
When they took the play into London last summer, the team thought that was a fitting end for the production.
‘Going into London last year was the cherry on the cake, as it was a nice place to finish it – or we thought we were finishing it.
‘Anthony’s a huge Agatha Christie fan, and we were right next door to The Mousetrap, and The Ambassadors was where Mousetrap originally was until it moved next door. ‘Andrew and I have both been in The Mousetrap, so it was quite nice to go back there – we had played the same part but in different casts.’
The Kings Theatre, Southsea