“You have no freedom, no choice, at the moment you don’t even have a passport”
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that Mike Bartlett is one of our finest contemporary writers and so it is pleasing to see that his new play Wild sees his reunite with creatives with whom he has had great success. Director James Macdonald was at the helm of the intense inter-relationships of Cock and designer Miriam Buether has reveled in transforming spaces such as the then-Cottesloe for Earthquakes in London and the Almeida for Game and both are on top form once again here.
At first glance, it might not look like Buether has done much to the Hampstead’s main stage but you can rest assured that she’ll have tipped the world on its axis by the end of the play, and what a fierce play it is. Bartlett has turned his gaze to the realm of information security as he imagines the experience of an Edward Snowden-like figure called Andrew who stuck two fingers up to the state by releasing sensitive data online. Sequestered in a Moscow hotel room on the run, he’s left awaiting his fate.
I like Bartlett’s writing when his focus is on the macro-level but I love it when it drills down to the micro, the sheer intensity of people just talking, wielding power unknown over each other. And that’s what we get here as Andrew is visited first by a woman named George who assures him she’s the contact he’s been waiting for, to put him in touch with ‘him’ (a man ‘trapped’ in a foreign embassy in London…). An hour later after she’s gone though, a man named George turns up claiming he’s actually the contact.
And so Jack Farthing’s Andrew gets increasingly strung out under the barrage of mutual questioning from both Caoilfhionn Dunne’s superbly cajoling Woman and John Mackay’s more gnomic Man – who can he trust, who can really secure his exile, is the threat of assassination that real, why did he do what he did, how does he feel about the loved ones he’s had to leave behind, was it worth it. And most crucially, who can he trust when his enemy is apparently the state?
Bartlett keeps the mood brilliantly slippery, as conversations tread the line between interview and interrogation, as suspicion lights on even the most innocent-looking of chocolate bars. And the scorching performances from all three keep the dialogue-heavy scenes ticking over with an ever-growing sense of fore-boding, the ominous feeling that nothing is quite as it seems, that the walls of reality could just fall away. Nail-bitingly intense and breathlessly exciting, go Wild.