STAGE REVIEW: Mindgame at the Festival Theatre, Malvern, from Tuesday, April 11 to Saturday, April 15, 2017.

THIS production of Anthony Horowitz’ craftily written mysterious thriller has everything.

In the space of two fast-moving and intriguing hours, it ranges from moments of suspense, horror, mystery, melodrama, and high farce, taking in along the way discourses on the nature of madness and evil.

There are performances, too, of excellent quality from three experienced and capable actors.

From a reviewer who normally shrinks from any play described as ‘psychological’ I just can’t recommend it highly enough.

The play concerns the visit to the Fairfields Maximum Security Hospital by Styler, a writer obsessed with the ghastly crimes carried out by serial killers. He has asked to interview the notorious Easterman, who has been committed to the hospital for the past 30 years or so for a series of bloodthirsty murders, including so we find out later, the killing and dismemberment of Styler’s own mother.

Firstly, however, he has to seek permission to do so from the Asylum Superintendent, Farquhar.

But, soon, it is clear that things are not quite what they should be; Farquhar cannot recall the letter of introduction that Styler has written, connecting doors cannot be opened, the anatomical skeleton is too prominently displayed in the room with its hands on its hips, the outside wall is mysteriously and methodically growing taller, and just why is the nurse, Paisley, so clearly living in total fear of her superior?

Bit by bit, the fear is growing that the inmates have taken over the asylum!

Andrew Flynn and Michael Sherwin, as the two main protagonists, produce stand-out performances.

Their characterisation is consistent through the many twists and turns of the plot, and they are line perfect throughout – both considerable feats of memory.

Sarah Wynne Kordas, as Paisley, provides admirable support, managing to get herself murdered not once, but twice over, during the evening.

There many moments of laugh-out-loud comedy but, for me, the greatest entertainment of the evening came from Sherwin as he described the disappointment he suffered to be always given his Christmas and birthday gifts so carefully wrapped up by his mother in the paper she had saved from last year’s presents!

And quite how Andrew Flynn maintains his own personal sanity spending, as he does, most of the second act confined in a straight-jacket, is beyond me. However, it would be wrong of me to give away the plot’s final twist, but rest assured, it’s all in the mind!

In the course of history, the present day may well be described as a time when the lunatics are ruling the world. Let’s hope not.

But to get away from it all, try a visit the Fairfields Lunatic Asylum at tsome stage this week.