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John Malkovich to star in David Mamet's new play Bitter Wheat at the Garrick Theatre

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

MULTI award-winning John Malkovich returns to the West End stage after nearly 30 years to play Barney Fein, a top dog Hollywood producer in Bitter Wheat.

A new play by the legendary author, director and playwright David Mamet, who also directs, it runs at the Garrick Theatre from June 19 (previews from June 7) to September 14, 2019.

The production also stars Doon Mackichan as Sondra and introduces Ioanna Kimbook, who will be making her theatrical debut as Yung Kim Li. Further casting will be announced in due course.

Hollywood is a hell hole. Everything in Hollywood is for sale except the awards, which are for rent.

Bitter Wheat is a play about a depraved Hollywood mogul. It rips the pashmina off the suppurating wound which is show business, and leaves us better human beings, and fitter to once more confront the horror of life.

Our hero, Barney Fein, is a bloated monster – a studio head, who, like his predecessor, the minotaur, devours the young he has lured to his cave. His fall from power to shame is a mythic journey which has been compared to The Odyssey by people who claim to have read that book.

John Malkovich began his career as an actor and director and original member of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago. There he acted in numerous plays, among them True West, Of Mice and Men, The Libertine, The Glass Menagerie, Big Mother, The Dumb Waiter, and many more. As a director at Steppenwolf he staged many plays, including Absent Friends, No Man’s Land, The Caretaker, Coyote Ugly , A Prayer for my Daughter, The House, Hysteria, Balm in Gilead and with the American novelist Don Delillo, he adapted and directed Libra.

He began acting in movies in 1983, his first film being The Killing Fields. His numerous credits since include Places in the Heart, Death of a Salesman, The Ogre, Dangerous Liaisons, The Object of Beauty, Empire of the Sun, Con Air, Being John Malkovich, In the Line of Fire, Le Temps Retrouvé, Klimt, Film Falaldo, Je Rentre à la Maison, Mary Reilly, Rounders, The Great Buck Howard, Burn After Reading, Red 1, Red 2 and Deepwater Horizon.

Malkovich has also worked as a fashion designer, worked extensively with colleagues in the field of classical music, and directed plays in Paris, Spain and Mexico City. He recently received widespread critical acclaim playing Hercule Poirot in a new BBC TV Agatha Christie adaptation.

Although Bitter Wheat is his first opportunity to work with David Mamet, he has worked with writers such as Christopher Hampton, Tom Stoppard, Harold Pinter, Terry Johnson, Stephen Jeffries, Sarah Phelps, Neil Cross, Sam Shepard, Robert Benton and Landford Wilson.

Doon Mackichan, who is well known for her extensive TV work which includes creating and starring in the hit comedy series Smack the Pony for Channel 4, Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge, Plebs for ITV2 and Two Doors Down for the BBC, will play Barney Fein’s assistant, Sondra.

Pulitzer prize-winning David Mamet has written some of the most iconic plays of the last 50 years including Sexual Perversity in Chicago, American Buffalo, Glengarry Glen Ross, Speed-the-Plow, and Oleanna.

Joining Mamet on the creative team are designer Christopher Oram and lighting designer Neil Austin.

Bitter Wheat is produced by Jeffrey Richards and Smith & Brant Theatricals.

Tickets: From £15 – to book, call 0330 333 4811 (Group booking line: 0330 333 4817; Access booking line: 0330 333 4815) or visit

Times: Mondays to Saturdays at 7:30pm; Thursday and Saturday matinees at 2:30pm.

Audio Described performance: Wednesday, August 21.

Captioned performance: Wednesday, August 28.

Also at the Garrick Theatre: Rip It Up – The 60s, starring Harry Judd, Aston Merrygold, Louis Smith and Jay McGuinness (February 7 to June 2, 2019).