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Ken Russell opera and theatre


Ken Russell Mindgame poster

Ken directs Anthony Horowitz's Mindgame in New York's SoHo Theatre, 2008.  Ken describes the play Midgame as "A play in which nothing is as it seems. Strains of violence, intrigue, questionable identity, serial killers and sexually loaded psychodrama stretch the imagination to breaking point or breakthrough point: your choice and your ride... Alone in my room, reading the script... ,by the end of Act II was ready for a large scotch. By the last page, I had finished the bottle. Yes, it was honestly the scariest script I had ever read."

There are three characters, Dr Alex Farquhar (Keith Carradine), Styler (Lee Godart) and Nurse Plimpton (Kathleen McNenny).

I haven't seen the play but Horowitz's text is so firmly embedded in the UK (references to the Queen Mum, M&S, Jeremy Paxman,  WH Smith) that it must have a significant update to USA equivalents.  Also any play which acknowledges and quotes psychiatrist RD Laing, Foucault's Madness and Civilisation and Jacob Moreno "I give them a small dose of insanity under conditions of control" makes it clear what the theme will be.

The set up is promising "The action of the play takes place during one evening in the office of Dr Alex Farquhar at Fairfields, an experimental hospital for the criminally insane.  It seems to belong to the sixties, perhaps to the world of Hammer Horror".  The scenery is described, but then "all this will change", and when someone enters through one door, later when trying to leave it appears to be a cupboard door.  Ken achieved disorientation by having the walls of the set slowly get closer to each other during the performance.

In the play Styler visits Dr Farquhar at the hospital to research a book on murderer Easterman, one of the patients.  Farquhar seems confused and disorganised, but does say "prisons and asylums are two quite different things.  The former are to lock people in.  The latter are to protect people by keeping the world out".

Kathleen McNenny as Nurse Plimpton in Ken Russell Mindgame

Nurse Plimpton is nervous and tries to give Styler a note.

Ken Russell Mindgame

The dialogue does give the game away "And now you want to meet Easterman? / It's strange to think that he could be a few metres away from where we are now / He could be closer".  However critic Charles Isherwood adds "A reasonably sophisticated toddler could foresee the revelation that closes the first act of “Mindgame,” but the second act does spring an authentic surprise or two" (New York Times, 9 Nov 2008).

Ken Russell Mindgame

Ken interviewed on the set (from Media Funhouse here).

And how he came to do the play "Some time ago I was approached by the talented American actor Lee Godart to direct the play, by the British author Anthony Horowitz, whose TV series Foyle's War and whose Alex Rider books are international hits."

Leo Godart, Kathleen McNenny and Keith Carradine in Ken Russell Mindgame

Leo Godart, Kathleen McNenny and Keith Carradine (image from Beowulf Boritt Design from here included with kind permission).

Carradine says "this is a play about perception and the changing nature of perception and the way madness might affect the way a person sees  things" (from interview by Valerie Smalldone, 7 Nov 2008, TheaterMania here).

Beowulf Boritt is the production designer, Ken's wife Elise is assistant director and the producers are Monica Tidwell and Michael Butler.  It was on from 29 Oct 2008 and opened on 9 Nov 2008 through to 28 Dec 2008.


More opera/stage/radio work

Click title for opera, play or radio  The Rake's Progress *   Madama Butterfly * The Italian Girl in Tangiers * La Boheme *   Die Soldaten * Faust * Mefistofoles * Princess Ida * Salome * Weill and Lenya (play) * Mindgame (play) * The Death of Alexander Scriabin (radio) *


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