Wild

Wild
By Mike Bartlett. Melbourne Theatre Company. Southbank Theatre, The Sumner. 5 May – 9 June, 2018

Wild is a fresh, clever, pacey, engrossing work.  In fact you don’t know what has hit you when you walk out of the auditorium.

As a probe of the public/private realm, that highlights just how vulnerable we are to scrutiny in all aspects of our lives, it is very timely.  It suggests that even those of us who have lived only a small percentage of our lives on/with social media are still vulnerable to not having the luxury of keeping any dark secrets in the proverbial closet.

As theatre audiences we are privileged to get to see Mike Bartlett’s work.  His play Cock was produced by MTC in 2014 and more recently by Bakers Dozen (directed by Ben Ho) earlier this year.  And Bartlett’s Oliver Award winning play King George III about Prince Charles ascension to the throne, complete with ghost of Princess Diana, was given an airing in Sydney by STC in 2016.

Cock is about identity and how identity is influenced by environment and in relation to others. Wild explores the shattering of identity due to the destabilizing of the structures constitute society.

Andrew (Nicholas Denton) has the appearance and demeanor of a kind of everyman.  He is portrayed as a person who, seemingly without guile, blew a whistle on corruption that in turn released Government secrets - like Edward Snowden.  The subsequent fallout is frightening.  Andrew is rendered stateless and bailed up in a generic hotel room in Moscow.  We witness his destabilizing by two ‘secret agent types’, Woman (Anna Lise Phillips) and Man (Toby Schmitz).  These characters are confusing and disturbing, particularly because of the way they talk about themselves and how their stories change.

Andrew’s total vulnerability is palpable.  Yet we feel, not so much for him but for ourselves as we watch him try to grapple with his drastically changed circumstances.  Having ruptured reality, by exposing some of the fundamental travesties that underpin the mechanics of modern society, any reliable framework has been smashed for Andrew.

As Man, Schmitz, with the help of a wacky hair-do, has developed the most marvelously sinister character with indications of ominous power and shifty danger.  Phillips as Woman is no less engaging. Her energy, commitment and focus does much to drive the performance forward as it twists back on its self and confounds.

Ultimately nothing is as it seems and we, almost too fully, experience Andrews wrenching disassociation.

In many ways Dean Bryant makes the perfect Director for Wild, however I feel the obvious is overstated at times.  For example, Andrew’s helplessness is highlighted in the middle of the work through a naked torso.  Wild is very energetically and emphatically staged.  I wonder if, as the season progresses and the production matures, moderation in tempo and intensity will heighten clarity.

The set, with evocatively strange vivid colouring, is designed by Andrew Bailey and enhanced by the shades in the costumes (Owen Phillips) and beautifully lit by Ross Graham.  Sound Design by Sidney Miller is marvelously subtle and atmospheric.

It is such a pleasure to be an audience to actors who are not mic’d.

Pretty much as exciting as anticipated.

Very strong and intelligent theatre.

Suzanne Sandow

Photographer: Jeff Busby

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