I’d intended to let Bitter Wheat languish unthought-about forever more but last week’s Harvey Weinstein episode provoked this
Emma de Caunes,
Hope Exiner d’Amore,
Paz de la Huerta,
Juliana De Paula,
Lucia Evans, formerly Lucia Stoller,
Ambra Gutierrez, formerly Ambra Battilana,
Emma Loman (alias),
Sarah Ann Masse,
Jennifer Siebel Newsom,
Vu Thu Phuong,
Those are the names of the women who have accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment or assault – where are the West End plays about them? I wasn’t going to write anything about Bitter Wheat but after this week’s incident of apparent rug-sweeping when it comes to the former film producer, it seems clear that the message needs reinforcing and reinforcing until everyone gets the damn point. Centring a theatrical narrative on him at this point, no matter how ostensibly ‘mocking’ (those fat jokes…!) is just unacceptable.
David Mamet’s decision to write and direct a play “in a good mood” still feels like a substantial misjudgement and yet it was tolerated all too easily at the Garrick, beyond the initial flurry of articles and reviews that took it to task. Perhaps emboldened by this, the situation was exacerbated by the cavalier approach to its ongoing publicity campaign (see below), dismissing any concerns as if the voices of so many women could be so easily ignored.
But then should we have expected anything else from this playwright? A rough and ready look through his catalogue suggests that only just over a quarter of the characters he has created are women. More tellingly, only 17% of his plays feature more than one woman, heaven knows what the Bechdel statistics would come out as. From Lakeboat to American Buffalo to Glengarry Glen Ross, his preferences are clear.
Mamet is of course free to write about whatever he wants but it is striking that in this day and age, he has stuck so resolutely to his male-dominated guns, shown so little interest to exploring any meaningful cross-gender interaction, never mind the lives of (any) women. That he then thought he would be the best chronicler for a #MeToo play is perhaps also unsurprising, it is that so many other aided and abetted him in this enterprise that feels even more depressing. We all need to do better.