Wild at Hampstead Theatre
Wild is the new play by writer Mike Bartlett that depicts espionage at its most tricksome, dancing with the borders of performance and illusion.
The play opens on Andrew (Jack Farthing) sitting in a hotel room, disorientated and shell shocked facing the aftermath of leaking a set of documents showing the true nature of America’s security regime. With him is an unnamed woman, played by the tireless and impressively eloquent Caoilfhionn Dunne, whose establishment has helped him seek asylum in Russia.
There are obvious similarities here with the Snowden Affair: a computer nerd who has seemingly flipped a switch illuminating both the lack of freedom that exists in the “land of the free” and his new-found notoriety. Luckily, Wild ends the familiarity there, as Bartlett’s writing and James MacDonald’s directing innovates the subject through a comedic lens, focussing on the consequences of politics for the average Joe in a daring piece of coup de theatre, made possible by the skill and ingenuity of the stage managers.
What follows is a fast-paced back and forth between Andrew and the woman, who easily dominates the conversation using literary loopholes and unexpected turns to convince Andrew to work for her establishment. Or is that the job of the unnamed man (John Mackay) who takes her place when she leaves?
Bartlett is no stranger to Hampstead Theatre, premiering Chariots of Fire there in 2012, and considering the composition of this piece it would not be far-fetched to assume Bartlett may have written Wild with this theatre in mind.
With just a three-person cast, each actor is very well suited to their role. Bartlett notably has succeeded where many spy plays have failed before him by writing a fantastic female part in the quick, intelligent, lewd and rambunctious Woman character. The play is essentially a series of prolonged conversations in a hotel room, however, the scene changes are accompanied by a dramatic, and at times humorous, score that provides a welcome pause to the stream of dialogue.
Bartlett ties the larger questions of whether freedom should be sacrificed for security, whether there truly is power in knowledge or virtue in truth, with the upper class quick wit we expect from a spy thriller, topped with a bow of relevant and current references to boot.
Wild is a piece of theatrical machinery that knows no limits and truly flips the story on its head.
Wild is on at Hampstead Theatre from 11th June until 16th July 2016. Book your tickets here.