Review: Mike Bartlett's Wild, Hampstead Theatre
Caoilfhionn Dunne (Woman) and Jack Farthing (Andrew) in Wild at Hampstead Theatre. Photo by Stephen Cummiskey
Andrew (Jack Farthing) is alone in a nondescript hotel room. He's done something big, something which takes him from sitting in KFC with his girlfriend one week to hiding out in a hotel in Moscow the next. Sound familiar? It should, Mike Bartlett's new play at Hampstead Theatre was inspired by Edward Snowden, whistle blower and revealer of secrets that the powers that be never wanted revealed.
A woman arrives (Caoilfhionn Dunne) who may or may not be there to help him. Her identity and purpose is an enigma. There are hints that she is from a Wiki-type company - there are references to 'him' which imply Julian Assange - she is also calculated and manipulative. One moment she is his friend, one moment not. She teases, jokes, is personal, aloof and she claims to know more about Andrew than he knows about himself. There is something about her that is disquieting.
After she has left a man (John Mackay) turns up and from what he say, Andrew thinks he's also from Wiki but he claims not to know who the woman is. He is also difficult to make out giving chocolate with one hand while blackmailing with the other - never has someone opening a bag been quite so tense.
Bartlett's play is unnerving. It puts you in the shoes of Andrew, has you groping around for the truth of the situation, questioning who and what information you can trust. In a recent interview on Radio 4's Front Row he drew parallels with the recent EU referendum - how could people make an informed choice when they didn't know who or what to believe, when you can't put your trust in the people in power who can you trust?
John Mackay (Man) and Jack Farthing (Andrew) in Wild at Hampstead Theatre. Photo by Stephen Cummiskey
The woman tells Andrew that it is ironic that in Russia the people accept that the government spy on them and yet in America, the land of the free, the Government also spy but do it secretly. There is irony too in the amount of information people happily give away via social media and online and yet the Government collecting personal information is seen as a infringement. Is she right in suggesting that ultimately western society will accept this invasion of their privacy just so they can carry on doing what they doing? After the initial shock of discovering our Government's are spying on us, has anything fundamentally changed and is our 'freedom' just a lie we all buy into?
Bartlett raises questions about Andrew's motivation for his whistle-blowing. He is adamant that it is because he strongly believes people should know the truth rather than for the fame or notoriety. Has he been naive in his estimation of the consequences - his life is in danger after all?
Wild finishes with a quite spectacular coup de theatre that turns everything that has gone before on its head. The build up, at times, is in danger of losing the audience in raising so many questions without answers but the pay off is worth it.
Caoilfhionn Dunne is the star for me. She manages to be funny, flirtatious, almost bumbling at times while at others menacing, calculating and disconcerting. And Jack Farthing plays Andrew with a naive vulnerability and you do fear for him.
Another cracking play from Mike Bartlett and you can catch it at the Hampstead Theatre until July 23. It is one hour and forty minutes without an interval and I'm giving it four stars.