Review: WILD at the MTC21 May 2018
Mike Barlett’s Wild is a chilling psychological thriller for the digital age. In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal that revealed the terrifying extent of Facebook’s trove of data on literally all of us, Wild is a poignant reminder of the precarious state of privacy today.
Wild depicts the psychological unravelling of an Edward-Snowden-esque fugitive navigating the repercussions of leaking top-secret government intelligence. Andrew (Nicholas Denton) is the shell-shocked whistle-blower desperately clinging to his principles, whilst Anna Lise Phillips is stunning as his enticingly bizarre guardian of sorts, Miss Prism. Together, the pair navigates the idealistic underpinnings of a Wiki-Leaks style organisation, and debate the principles for which Andrew has sacrificed his life. Toby Schmitz as George is a debonair, welcome change from the intense dialogue between Phillips and Denton, but is cast in the shadows of Phillips stunning performance. Set in a stark, lifeless Moscow hotel room, there’s a distinct sense that something is very much awry, that something is imminent. George and Miss Prism offer contradictory and confusing narratives, as Andrew grapples with his complete vulnerability in their hands. As the play progresses, it seems that as Andrew begins to lose his grip on reality, so do we. A lofty question mark looms over the story as we delve deeper, and the show progressively descends into chaos.
It’s not until the final scenes, however, that the play really comes into its own. What it lacked in visual interest in the first part of the play it more than made up for at the climax. The manipulation of set design at the finale was absolutely incredible, and the most engaging aspect of the play. Stripping away the facades of normalcy, the set is deconstructed before the audience’s eyes until the stark, barren interior of the industrial set is exposed. This jarring descent into chaos is reflected by the sudden, dramatic tilting of the stage. As size, space and time are blurred and challenged by the powerful coup de theatre, Dean Bryant’s direction forces us to change our perspective.
In particular, Anna Lise Phillips brought an intensity to the production with her portrayal of the erratically funny but mysterious Miss Prism. The contrast between her periods of manic energy and moments of intimidating solemness was striking, Phillips managed to balance the two aspects of the character extremely well.
Yet in some respects, this play already feels a little dated. The show indulges attempts to chart a specifically British construction of the “American dream”. The basis for the eventual deconstruction of Andrew’s character is his beliefs in American freedom. In the current Trump era, disillusionment, anger, and fear dominate both international and internal perceptions of the country. We are, essentially, witnessing the fall of the American dream. Without this construct to rely on, the play is hollow.
“We know everything about you,” declares Miss Prism, at one particularly jarring moment. The comment is directed at Andrew, but it is intimately felt by an audience for which such sentiments are frighteningly poignant in our current context. Wild is a thought-provoking reflection on the state of our times, and our departure from the American idealism of Snowden’s actions, a mere five years ago. A gripping, contemporary depiction of privacy and surveillance in the 21st century, MTC’s Wild is not to be missed.