Playwright Mike Bartlett is developing a reputation for squeezing improbably huge themes into impractically small spaces. But any doubts dispelled by the success of his expansive 2010 work Earthquakes in London will need addressing once more with the debut of his ambitious new play 13 at the National's Olivier Theatre.
The new work is about an alternate capital, where Londoners awake from an identical dream just as the protagonist, John, returns after years away to find economic gloom, ineffective protest, and a Prime Minister about to declare war. If that sounds familiar, then it is meant to. Set in the autumn of 2011 (so, now), the events of 13 take place in a subtly parallel and entirely plausible London.
Through John's return, and set in a dark, familiar and, yet, otherworldly streetscape, 13 explores how coincidences, omens and visions collide with political reality. The London of 13 is teetering on the parapet, seeing governments fall as the people take to the streets and exploring the meaning of personal responsibility.
Director Thea Sharrock has the task of bringing this ambitious project of dreamscapes and changing horizons to life within the confines of a South Bank theatre but, given Bartlett's track record for exploring vast themes, there is every chance that 13 will meet with yet more acclaim.
Mike Bartlett's 13 plays at the Olivier Theatre on selected dates until 8th January, including some matinée performances.
We have tickets for all dates available now priced from £12 to £30 for the best stalls, but note that the first batch of dates (up to 3rd of November) have all sold out. Tickets are available for all other dates, but demand has been high, so if you want to go, don't ponder too much!