Review: Mind Games, Belper Arts Festival

IMG_9527-2Director Larry Waller was on tenterhooks as the audience assembled waiting to watch the premiere of Mind Games in Belper last night.

He was certain that what we were going to be watching was something special but what he wasn’t so sure about was how the audience would react to his interpretation of the new play.

Sixty-five emotional minutes later he had a broad grin on his face as the departing crowd called out compliments to his team, and playwright George Gunby.

Mind Games explores the world of John Lennon’s killer Mark Chapman incarcerated in jail with little hope of parole.

Larry wanted the play staged by Belper Arts Festival in partnership with Captive Audience Community Theatre to educate and challenge the audience to consider the man Mark Chapman then, now and in the future.

It certainly achieved that aim and, as he was hoping, it was also entertaining, captivating and exciting.

There are just five cast members with Paul Davies playing Chapman and Dan Skidmore the Lennon of his mind.

The brilliant script would most certainly be a challenge for any actor but this pair more than did it justice.

Paul Davies was superb, his whole being appeared as if it had been subsumed by Chapman’s persona, and the result was a deeply moving performance.

The other three members of the cast, Keren Adler, Megan Harman and Sheila Kay Sly, played the demonic voices in his head, and took on various characters from his mother to his wife and even a hooker.

They screeched and chattered, giggled and scolded. Their existence was always sinister but at times they were also a comfort for the tortured soul they possessed.

The set in the small performance space they had allowed themselves at the Strutts Centre was so minimal it barely existed. Black curtains, two boxes and a backdrop of fantastic charcoal drawing by Paul Davies, who is also a talented artist.

This meant the lighting and sound had to be extra special and of course it was just that. In Belper there is a wealth of talent a director can call on if he is staging such a production and for Mind Games Larry chose Jamie Vella to handle the lights and James Oldrini to compose the original soundscape.

The writer George says in his writer’s notes in the programme that the team effort had left him “speechless with admiration on more than one occasion”.

What started out for him as a 20-minute short play has been turned into an impressive piece of drama thanks to his writing, Larry’s vision and the creativity of an enthusiastic group of artists.

The play can be seen at the Strutts Centre, Belper until Saturday.