by Mike Bartlett.
Olivier Theatre Upper Ground South Bank SE1 9PX In rep to 8 January 2012.
2pm 2, 12 Nov, 3, 15, 17, 29 Dec, 7 Jan.
2.30pm 4 Dec, 8 Jan.
7.30 1-3, 10-13, 14 Nov, 2, 3, 5, 6, 13-17, 28, 29 Dec, 5-7 Jan.
Audio-described: 5 December 3 December 2pm (+ Touch Tour 12.30pm).
Captioned 6 Jan 7.30pm.
Runs: 2hr 45min One interval.
TICKETS 020 7452 3000.
Review: Carole Woddis 26 October.
Grippingly urgent and topical: the National Theatre delivers another play set in London.
Mike Bartlett’s 13 is a big, bold and brave play. Bartlett tends to work in doomsday terms, witness his previous Earthquakes in London. Clearly he feels we’re going to hell in a hand-cart and is doing his level best to warn us away.
But he’s also capable of exquisite, small-scale sensitivities as evidenced in Cock (to be produced off-Broadway in 2012) and My Child. Certainly Earthquakes and now 13 are filled more with totemic mouthpieces than always fully-fledged characters. But, if you’re working on broad, state-of-the-nation themes, fragmented snap-shots may inevitably be the order of the day.
If there is a criticism to level at Bartlett and the National Theatre, it’s to do with London-centricity. Along with Mike Leigh’s Grief – and coincidentally Steven Poliakoff’s My City (currently at the Almeida, see further Reviewsgate review) – London as the microcosm and exemplar for everything in these islands is simply short-sighted. Where are the plays that tell us what is happening in Tyneside, Swindon or Liverpool?
Be that as it may, 13, in Thea Sharrock’s terrific production, heightened by Adrian Johnston’s Laurie Anderson-spiked, foreboding filled score and Tom Scutt’s shiny, black set, conveys a troubling modern world. Everyone is having bad dreams – a device never adequately explained but used by Bartlett as a way to a collective sense of impending doom.
Something is wrong, and in a series of episodic scenes, loosely linked by a potential messianic loner, John, and his relationship to Geraldine James’ crisp female Prime Minister, Bartlett attempts to show our contemporary world’s spiritual paucity as well as political chaos.
Post-Iraq, Bartlett identifies Iran’s nuclear programme as the next great threat – and complementary to that, our gullibility in the wake of our desire to believe in something beyond the material world.
Trystan Gravelle makes a convincing, soft-voiced young Welshman advocating a different way. Through him, Geraldine James and Danny Webb’s Dawkins’s like adviser, Stephen, Bartlett makes 13 into that rare thing, a play of ideas where one argument, pragmatism, is pitted against another: idealism.
A crucial play for today, overstuffed maybe with implausibilities, it remains grippingly urgent and topical.
Sarah: Genevieve O’Reilly.
Amir: Davood Ghadami.
Ruth: Geraldine James.
Martin/Paul: Nick Blakeley.
Shannon: Katie Brayben.
Rachel: Kirsty Bushell.
Stephen: Danny Webb.
Holly: Lara Rossi.
Edith: Helen Ryan.
Zia: Shane Zaza.
Rob: Matthew Barker.
Mark: Adam James.
John: Trystan Gravelle.
Ruby: Grace Cooper Milton/Jadie-Rose Hobson.
Dennis: Nick Sidi.
Liam/Terry: John Webber.
Carol: Sioned Jones.
Alice: Natasha Broomfield.
Sally: Esther McAuley.
Esther: Barbara Kirby.
Fiona: Zara Tempest-Walters.
Sir Christopher: Martin Chamberlain.
Director: Thea Sharrock.
Designer: Tom Scutt.
Lighting: Mark Henderson.
Sound: Ian Dickinson.
Music: Adrian Johnston.
Movement: Steve Kirkham.
Company Voice work: Jeannette Nelson.
Dialect coach: Kate Godfrey.
Digital Artist: Emma Pile.
Fight arranger: Kev McCurdy.
World premiere of 13 at the Olivier Theatre London on 25 October 2011.
13 was developed with the assistance of the National Theatre Studio.