Review Round-up: Is 13 Lucky for Bartlett?
Across London, people wake up from an identical, terrifying dream. At the same moment, a young man named John (Trystan Gravelle) returns home after years away to find economic gloom, ineffective protest, and a Prime Minister (Geraldine James) about to declare war. But John has a vision for the future and a way to make it happen.
"Rather than state-of-the-nation, Bartlett does state-of-the-globe and, here, he attempts to cram the whole thing onto the Olivier stage in three hours. It was never going to fit and 13 is overstretched. Broad archetypes serve as political mouthpieces and the narrative skips like a scratched CD to set up a showdown. But, in spite of such faults, the piece captivates throughout. Its direct address demands our attention … At its centre is John (Trystan Gravelle), a saviour in sweatpants preaching a new world order of genuine choice and possibility from on top of a bucket in a London park … Bartlett’s chief success is in his portrayal of the symptoms that breed this dissatisfaction. Once again, he shows an uneasy world fuelled by coffee and e-numbers. Each night, the whole of London wakes from the same nightmare … The second half whittles down to a Newsnight debate as John and Ruth, with the help of Stephen, face-off and, though worthy, it’s not earned in theatrical terms … Only Adam James’ rambunctious lawyer and Shane Zaza’s zany student offer a slant on their stereotypes in a big play with its fingers on the pulse, if not its eye on the ball.”
"Mike Bartlett, author of Earthquakes in London, has gone all apocalyptic again, exploring the flaky modish idea that social networks are creating a new kind of popular politics, better than the old sort represented by Geraldine James as the PM … For the first hour and a half, around Tom Scutt’s fabulous giant revolving cube of urban nightmare, a huge cast stride and interact in a series of thin but nicely crafted vignettes of city life: student demonstrators, one-night stands, an American diplomat with a precocious brat, a lawyer (Adam James with a perfect posh swagger) and Helen Ryan as a demented jogging granny who sings Rihanna off-key and gets the laughs … But after an interval of baffled headshaking among the audience (a few of whom left), the play transforms itself … Thatcher MkII scuppers the Welsh windbag, goes to war, and in a poignant dying fall each of the disillusioned disciples speaks, then vanishes back into the humdrum world of individuality and doubt.”