Bitter Wheat - John Malkovich and David Mamet divide critics

Don't listen to critics is my advice, make sure you get out there and see theatre despite what I think, or anyone else out there. Especially the high brow papers who are privileged to get invited free to some great theatre, then rush back to their desks and write some nonsense about a totally different play that you and I saw.

Much like you see on social media these days, for every person who takes time to comment on your post, there's an equal amount of people who will go against your opinion or view. 

It's just the way the world is.

I remember once performing in a comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe. It was a lot of fun, and we played to packed audiences every night. The laughter was constant and we knew we had something special. One review in the press the next day said "the audience laughed their head off. We think they should get out more".  Well they were out, and they did laugh, isn't that the point ?

So in a similar fashion check out the three headlines. Two of them use 'monstrous' and 'misfires' in the same title. Written by two different journalists. Who is copying who ? Then the one in the middle says it was brilliant.  

My view ?  A great night at the theatre. John Malkovich has so much energy and jumps out of the stage every second he is on. It really didn't matter what the play was, he exudes talent and is a joy to experience live. 

The play ?  Well, of course this will divide audiences. An elderly couple next to me never stopped laughing and were amazed at the talented David Mamet 'writing something to make us feel that way is a real talent' they enthused during the break. To my left were two young gay guys. They never laughed. Looked glum during the interval and appeared not to enjoy it.  

There were some uncomfortable few moments at the end of the first act and it was clear that this was the intention of Mamet. Everyone was supposed to feel unsettled with negative emotions.  It was an experience that is rare in the theatre, but so important. How do we really understand the disturbing experiences of someone faced with a movie guru asking you unwanted intimate questions ?  Well, we all felt that and if we didn't get it before, it was loud and clear and it hurt.

Malkovich was complimented on stage with a competent team who never came close to shining, but that was the point of the massive character and the charisma of the acting talent behind the role. 

The level of tenacity to get what he wanted in business and in life, with no shame or connection with anyone's feelings or his own humanity, was the simple but powerful message. How can someone escape such manipulative and subtle coercing through use of emotional blackmail and psychological twists and turns ?  Not easy, such is the power of such a beast. 

It was the hottest ticket in town last night, with David Suchet (Inspector Poirot), Zoe Wannamaker and her Glasgow born acting husband Gawn Grainger, Adrian Scarborough (Gavin & Stacey), and comedian Rich Hall were just a few of the faces I noticed in the seats in front of me.  

Only a few people gave a standing ovation.  The rest of us were quite happy sitting and watching the gentle acknowledgement of the real person behind Malkovich knowing he'd done a great job. One he'll be doing throughout the summer months at the Garrick Theatre in the West End.

On leaving the building someone said "of course they'll change the script before it gets to Broadway", as a reference to the potential legal issues of something that makes little effort at hiding the fact that they were showing us a truth to what a character like Harvey Weinstein is actually capable of. 

Bitter Wheat is on at the Garrick Theatre until Saturday 21 September 2019.

Review by Douglas McFarlane