West End Weinstein: Bitter Wheat At Garrick Theatre

Bitter Wheat, Garrick Theatre ★★★☆☆

By James FitzGerald Last edited 61 months ago

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Last Updated 20 June 2019

West End Weinstein: Bitter Wheat At Garrick Theatre Bitter Wheat, Garrick Theatre 3
Photo: Manuel Harlan

Malkovich meets Mamet: twin masters of the morally-murky are teaming up for the first time here. It has been a long wait for John Malkovich’s return to the London stage (30 years) and Bitter Wheat is a bold pick. David Mamet’s new play about manipulative movie moguls is sure to offend, and to trigger questions about whether men are ‘allowed’ to do #MeToo shows.

Photo: Manuel Harlan

Although Harvey Weinstein is the elephant in the room, it is an elephantine Malkovich in a fat suit around whom the world seems to revolve in this squirm-inducing satire. He plays Barney Fein, an unscrupulous Hollywood producer of cliché who preys on an aspiring actress (Ioanna Kimbrook). Naturally there’s very little to like in Fein, and the ‘woke’ stance caused by his fall feels contrived and sudden. But he is a fascinating wretch thanks to Malkovich’s trademark crazed mannerisms.

Photo: Manuel Harlan

Mamet is no less devilish. He introduces a fat-man complex as one possible explainer for Fein’s bullying — a bit trite — but also hints at dual sides to the man. So it is precisely because Fein is unfeeling (forgets his mum’s been murdered) that he is also an imaginative talent (spins the story of his mum’s murderer into a potential blockbuster). Here Mamet is typically non-obvious, and funny to boot. Bitter Wheat is not the show to look at abuse from a victim’s perspective. Rather it attempts to pathologise the many grave character flaws that build an aggressor in the first place.

Bitter Wheat, Garrick Theatre, Charing Cross Road, WC2H 0HH. Tickets from £15, until 21 September 2019.