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Wild, Hampstead Theatre, review: ‘Doctor Foster writer’s comedy a diverting outing’

PUBLISHED: 12:00 30 June 2016

Caoilfhionn Dunne (Woman) and Jack Farthing (Andrew) in Wild at Hampstead Theatre. Picture: Stephen Cummiskey

Caoilfhionn Dunne (Woman) and Jack Farthing (Andrew) in Wild at Hampstead Theatre. Picture: Stephen Cummiskey

© Stephen Cummiskey 2016

A clever black comedy echoes the Edward Snowdon case but despite a stunning set fails to animate its arguments says Bridget Galton.

In a Russian hotel room, a US government whistleblower with obvious similarities to Edward Snowdon is visited by the kooky British representative of an organisation very like WikiLeaks.

Later a creepily intense second man, will visit the American, claiming to be from the same organisation, but denying knowledge of the previous woman.

For no obvious reason, the pair mess with his head. Do they want him as a spokesman for their loosely anarchist group?

Are they winding him up? Spooks? Figments of his fevered imagination?

Charles III and Doctor Foster writer Mike Bartlett is trying to keep him and us guessing about who to trust and who’s watching who in our surveillance society.

Arguments about Andrew’s and the organisation’s motives and beliefs, about the slippery, shifting contract between governments and their spied upon subjects in the name of keeping us safe, and about how we’ve relinquished our own privacy in return for free stuff, are rehearsed in a string of dialogues.

Despite James McDonald’s efforts to inject tension, it’s a mite too smart-talky and static.

Some of it would work just as well on the radio.

Caoifhionn Dunne as The Woman does her best to mine the piece’s flip humour, veering from sarcastic and needling to menacing.

But she doesn’t always strike the right balance between them.

And Jack Farthing as the fugitive computer geek turned public enemy segues from wary to paranoid as he realises how completely he’s relinquished his own freedom.

Miriam Buether’s set provides a spectacular coup de theatre that metaphorically and literally rips away the foundations for Andrew’s beliefs and embodies his limbo.

But all of the playing around with who is who, necessarily ditches characterisation and Andrew becomes merely a blank canvas on which to throw ideas.

A diverting rather than riveting night out.

Wild is running at Hampstead Theatre.

Rating: 3/5 stars

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