The Assembly Hall welcomes a theatrical production of Anthony Horowitz’s book Mindgame all this week. Eileen Leahy talks to one of the play’s three principal actors Michael Sherwin, who unlocks the key to this criminal mystery…

So Michael, please can you give us a brief synopsis of Mindgame…

It is set inside Fairfields, a maximum-security hospital for the criminally insane. A writer of
true crime, Mark Styler, wants to interview Easterman, a serial killer inmate who has been a patient at the hospital for 30 years. In order to get to talk to Easterman, he must get the
permission of Dr Farquhar, who runs the institution. As the play begins Mark Styler has been waiting in Dr Farquhar’s office for almost two hours and is getting restless…

How does the original thriller translate to stage?

For me, it’s the challenge of working with a small cast and a single room set to grab the
audience’s attention from the very beginning and hold their interest throughout the twists and turns of the plot. This is helped enormously by a brilliant script by Anthony Horowitz – with his excellent use of language he takes us through a maze of psychological entanglements that keep you interested right to the end.

Tell us about the actors in the cast…
There are three of us in the cast. I play Dr Farquhar, Andrew Ryan plays Mark Styler and
Sarah Wynn Kordas plays Nurse Paisley

How long have you been touring and how do you find it?
We first did the show as part of the Theatre Royal Nottingham’s Rep Thriller Season in 2016, where we did four plays in four weeks! Mindgame was the last one in that season and we only had a week to rehearse it, although we were very pleased with the reaction we got from audiences and critics. But we all felt we could improve the play and get more from it with a longer run.

So where have you travelled to on your tour?
Quite a few places,ranging from the Pomegranate Theatre in Chesterfield and Middlesbrough Theatre, to the Theatre Royal Windsor, the New Theatre Royal Lincoln and the Swansea Grand. This week we are at the Assembly Hall and then we’ll be going to High Wycombe, Coventry and the Isle of Wight. We all love touring – it’s great to visit different parts of the country and go back to theatres we have visited in the past. The show gets more interesting the more we do it, surprising us still as we find more detail and subtlety in the writing and in the characters.

What is the general audience’s reaction to the show?
Without exception, in every theatre we have been to, the audience reaction has been brilliant, with people asking us afterwards about all the twists and turns. There are so many that it’s easy to miss something – one couple were overheard having a heated argument walking back to their car!

Are you excited about it coming to Tunbridge Wells?

This will be my first visit to the town and I am very much looking forward to it. As actors we are so lucky to visit lovely theatres in all sorts of different places up and down the country – and now I’ll be able to add the Assembly Hall, Tunbridge Wells to the list!

What do you think is the secret behind a successful stage show?

A well-written script is essential, with a story that grabs your attention in the first few minutes and keeps your interest until the end. The characters have to be believable and real, involved in situations that an audience understands and are able to suspend disbelief for a few hours. An inventive design team with vision, a technical team that can bring it all to life, a talented director – and of course a great cast who can take the characters and make them their own and work together well.

What will the audiences at the Assembly Hall take away with them after seeing Mindgame?
Hopefully, the memory of an enjoyable evening from a master of the thriller genre, and a story that keeps them guessing until the very end…

Mindgame is on at the Assembly Hall all this week until Saturday. Tickets start from £15
and there will be a matinee on Wednesday and Saturday. For more information visit www.assemblyhalltheatre.co.uk