My someplace new to visit in June was the Garrick Theatre in London, as I’d bought tickets for Bitter Wheat. Bitter Wheat, as you may have heard, is the controversial new David Mamet play that’s just opened. John Malkovich stars as a Weinstein-esque lecherous movie producer, his first appearance on stage in London for over 30 years.
Bitter Wheat for bitter critics
I hadn’t seen any reviews of the play before I went in. Reading them afterwards, they were largely stinky, and I could see why. The subject matter (Harvey Weinstein) is uncomfortable, and the play reflects this. It’s often very funny, with trademark Mamet quickfire witty dialogue. As an audience we were forced into a corner of laughter, before stopping short and remembering that the topic at hand is no laughing matter. This works pretty well in the first half, as the action shifts from humour to sinister and predatory.
But then the second act just goes bugnuts. The tone lurches into farce, which doesn’t really work. Ending with a whimper when you would expect an explosion, it felt kind of unfinished. But still, I’m glad I saw it. It’s exciting to see a play tackling contemporary events like this. The whole production is incredibly thought provoking. You could tell that the audience was confused and didn’t quite know how to react at times. Do we laugh? Disapprove? Recoil? All of this and more. The performances, especially from leads Malkovich and Doon Mackichan, are terrific. Definitely worth seeing. Brace yourself to be discombobulated.
Walking around the corner from the theatre, I stumbled upon another controversial talking point – Oscar Wilde. This statue, A Conversation With Oscar Wilde, has been lurking in London’s West End for over 20 years but this was my first encounter.
It was created by the wonderful painter and sculptor Maggi Hambling. If you have a long memory you may recall Hambling wearing a moustache on the Channel Four quiz show Gallery in the 1980s. There weren’t many women in moustaches on TV in the Eighties and believe me, it caused quite a stir.
Since this statue is a conversation, people have taken the opportunity to commune with it in many ways over the years. Oscar used to be holding a cigarette, until too many people pinched it and now he is smoke-free. On the day I visited, some lout had dumped their ice cream on it. It’s a statement, I guess.
The idea behind the work is that Oscar is rising from his sarcophagus and the viewer can sit down and talk with him. I wonder what he would say about Bitter Wheat? Plenty, that’s for sure.
How to get there
Bitter Wheat is on at the Garrick Theatre London from now until 21st September 2019.
The stature A Conversation With Oscar Wilde is located on Adelaide Street WC2, near Charing Cross Tube.
I am visiting somewhere new every month this year. Check out my previous adventures here.