Theatre Review: 13 @ the National Theatre

By Zoe Craig Last edited 88 months ago
Theatre Review: 13 @ the National Theatre

With a title like that, it's hard to resist: here are 13 reasons why you might like to see Mike Bartlett's new play, 13, at the National Theatre.

  1. It’s epic. A reaction to the August riots, the Arab spring, the rise of the Internet and the decline in organised religious engagement, tapping into the disaffected nature modern-day Britons, it deals with today’s issues with a sweeping, engaging energy.
  2. It features someone riding a Boris Bike on stage. We reckon that's a first.
  3. Geraldine James is excellent as a friendless but popular post-Thatcher Tory PM (stay with us), a good balance of arrogance, vanity, proper wavering insecurity and sad self-defined pragmatism.
  4. The Olivier Theatre's drum revolve is used to full effect: as the many characters’ snappy stories whirl around, so too does that famous stage, giving a great sense of the world turning, and time passing as the UK stumbles towards war with Iran.
  5. Trystan Gravelle: sexy, weird, Welsh, compelling to watch; he’s brilliantly cast as the mysterious evangelical John.
  6. While we liked the earlier collage of characters, sometimes the later, more static political debates felt like we were watching the Guardian's comments pages being dramatized. But if you like that sort of thing…
  7. You get to hear a granny crooning Rihanna songs while she plays the piano. The effect is, in a word, surreal.
  8. Said granny also amused us by driving a shopping trolley into the window of a high street bank.
  9. Banks, in general, (and Nat West, specifically) get a bit of a bashing in the play. This raised a kind of half-cheer from the audience last night.
  10. In cleaner Shannon and quantum physicist Zia, actors Katie Bushell and Shane Zaza have created two of the most convincing and likeable oddball cameos we've seen on stage for some time. (*Small spoiler alert*: that they end up together just made us feel all warm and fuzzy inside.)
  11. It'll make you think. Whether about battery hens, banks, technology, books, good and evil, belief, Alzheimer’s, paying for sex, accepting money for sex, friendship or coffee, we’d be surprised if you left the theatre without having your grey matter massaged about something.
  12. This being the National, the whole ensemble is packed with great actors. And the production, costumes, effects, lighting and so on are all top notch.
  13. Half the tickets for each performance are just £12 (not £13?). The rest are £15 and £30. That makes 13 a pretty reasonable night out, considering all the thought-provoking you get for your cash.

13 is at the National Theatre until 8 January 2012. Visit to find out more. Londonist recieved a press ticket to see last night's opening performance.

Last Updated 26 October 2011