Mindgame at the Vaudeville Theatre

The only mindgame that this terrible thriller plays on you is to set you wondering how it ever reached the West End.

The thriller genre, once a staple of the London theatre scene, has, with the exception of the long-running The Woman in Black, virtually disappeared. Watching this completely feeble attempt to chill our blood, it's no surprise. And that's the problem with the entire exercise - a total absence of surprise.

The theatre, first and foremost, isn't a realistic place, and the sight of litres of stage blood just isn't believable in these more theatrically sophisticated times. But we would be more willing to suspend our disbelief if the plot was even slightly more believable.

Anthony Horowitz's play, portentously set in a preposterously understaffed hospital for the criminally insane, proceeds by twists and turns, each more ludicrous than the last, to a conclusion that leaves you feeling cheated. Along the way, it also manages to leave you with a distinctly unpleasant taste in your mouth on account of the deeply voyeuristic violence being levied against a busty female nurse, in particular. This is done in such poor taste that you suspect director Richard Baron was shooting - on purpose - for the ugly titillation of a video nasty.

That such capable actors as Simon Ward (as the doctor running the hospital) and Helen Hobson (as the nurse who seems to be the solitary staff member) are called upon to grace the proceedings is a complete waste of their talents and dignity, but both professionally go through the paces. Christopher Blake, as a visiting journalist keen to interview one of the serial killer inmates at the hospital, is over-the-top from the moment he arrives - which may be intentional given later revelations.

I can't put it any more strongly or succinctly than this - Mindgame is a bad and tasteless piece of theatre. Stay away.

Mark Shenton