The latest creation from Mike Bartlett (the mind behind Olivier Award winning King Charles III, amongst others), currently playing on Hampstead Theatre’s main stage, is simply titled ‘Wild’. However, behind the one-word title lies something far more complicated and thought-provoking.
Andrew worked for the US government and has recently leaked a massive amount of classified information to the public – since that moment he has been on the run, and is currently holed up in a Russian hotel room awaiting contact from “him”. Over the course of the night, he is supervised by an unnamed man & woman who are keen to get him onside, but something nags away at Andrew that things just don’t ring true…
Bartlett has taken inspiration from the Edward Snowden story; he plays with our ideals of data confidentiality, alongside our somewhat lackadaisical approach to social media & personal information. It is a modern moral tale that needs to be seen by as wide an audience as possible. If a theatre can be found to accommodate it, I would absolutely back it to transfer – it has already been extended due to popular demand!
Miriam Buether (Sunny Afternoon, Chariots of Fire) has designed a set with great authenticity and, as you see later on, great practicality. Coupled with Peter Mumford’s lighting design, it has the look & feel of a hotel room at different stages of the day. The traditional Russian-sounding music that plays on entry and during scene resets adds an element of excitement to it all – setting the tone early on, ramping up the atmosphere as the play progresses.
Caoilfhionn Dunne plays Woman. She is incredibly entertaining, with a quirky charm – her enactment of “whimsy”, in particular, is hilarious. You never quite know who she is, which Dunne really plays up to add to the ambiguity. Man (John Mackay) is first seen in the second scene, once Andrew has had some time to stew. Mackay makes a chilling impression, somehow managing to be caring & sinister at the same time.
As Andrew, Jack Farthing excels. It is an incredibly naturalistic performance – so much so, even when things start taking a bizarre turn, you can’t help but believe in him. He has the deftest comic timing, when called upon, and works well opposite Man & Woman. His slow realisation that he may not have anyone left he can trust is terrifying, as he becomes isolated in a world that he can barely understand.
It’s hard to express how clever & brilliantly done this play is without giving away its secrets. Bartlett says in his interview for the programme that he likes to play with ideas rather than just depict them, and he certainly does that to great effect. The play closes with a jaw-dropping sequence that is impossible to predict – definitely one of the best ends to a show that I’ve seen. The last scene in particular will stay with you long after the final bow, and make you re-evaluate the instantaneous decisions you take on a daily basis.
My verdict? A thought-provoking play with the most unexpected of twists; catch it at all costs – it will change your life!
Wild runs at the Hampstead Theatre until 23 July 2016. Tickets are available online and from the box office.