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Wild at Hampstead Theatre – Review

Cast of WILD by Mike Bartlett / Hampstead Theatre
Caoilfhionn Dunne (Woman) and Jack Farthing (Andrew) in Wild at Hampstead Theatre. Photo by Stephen Cummiskey

Mike Bartlett is one of the most intriguing playwrights out there today. With what I believe is a genuine innocence of imagination, each of his plays is political, fresh and plays with form in a way that consistently produces something original. In James Macdonald’s production of Wild, it is perhaps the staging itself which makes the biggest twist in the story.

Inspired by the Edward Snowden affair, Wild sets itself in a hotel room in Moscow, with twenty-eight-year- old, KFC-consuming Andrew (Jack Farthing), who – with the touch of a button – has leaked critical confidential files turning him into America’s Most Wanted man. Luckily, he is joined by the ‘Woman’ (Caoilfhionn Dunne) who claims to work for the ‘Him’ who is going to help him. He is then joined by the ‘Man’ (John Mackay), who also works for ‘Him’ but has no idea who the ‘Woman’ is. Andrew doesn’t have much time; he doesn’t know who to trust. Should he listen to he, or she, or is the whole thing just one big lie?

Dunne moves around with a confident bend in the hips. She’s sort of flirty; sort of not. Bartlett’s dialogue wrings around her expressions, making her untrustingly comical as she speaks what appears to be a spurge of unguarded thoughts, cleverly composed by the playwright. However, whilst absurdly annoying, statements including ‘You have no privacy really, you have no rights’, with references to the ‘Ballad box…we’re just guessing’, not only makes the writing topical and relevant, but furthermore provides an intellectual understanding suggesting she is not as kooky as she appears. The contrast between her eccentricity and Farthing’s precise control over his delivery makes for a fascinating watch.

Once intrigued, the pacing did start to borderline on tedious, however the entrance of Mackay turned the story on its head, and this wouldn’t be the first time. Mackay and Farthing both exert the ability to stimulate the audience with their subtleties; simple moments such as an awkward-angled walk from Mackay brings a laughter that is perfectly matched with the tone of this dark comedy. The dialogue is cutting, the action is slick, and the final tableaux causes the ultimate drop of the jaw. This is also probably the first time I haven’t been bored by blackouts. All the creative decisions – including the set, which is just too perfect a representation of a hotel room – finally all make sense; whilst simultaneously, the audience are left in total uncertainty of what’s to come.

4 stars

Review by Joseph Winer

Last week, Andrew was that guy with his girl lunching in KFC, discussing apartments and making plans for the future. Today he’s in Moscow, in an undisclosed hotel room, on the run and at risk of assassination.

Last week, a nobody. This week, America’s Most Wanted: a man who humiliated his country with one touch of a button.

Mike Bartlett’s darkly comic new play explores the unexpected, bewildering, and life-changing consequences of challenging the status quo at a global level. As the State grows more powerful because of technology, and technology grows more powerful because of the State, where do the self-appointed protectors of the rights of the citizen stand? Heroes? Or traitors?

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Wild
Hampstead Theatre
Eton Avenue, Swiss Cottage
London, NW3 3EU

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