Friday, 9 December 2011

13, 2nd December 2011

Who is it? Too many to mention on here so take a look at the cast list on the NT website.
Where did you see it? Olivier, National Theatre.

Mike Bartlett is the writer-in-residence at the National. I say this to remind myself why this poor, self-indulgent mess of a play even got past the first draft, let alone the biggest stage at National. I won a competition to see it and dragged along a friend, who had never been before. She is now reluctant to ever see a National Theatre play again. Having just looked up Bartlett I am suprised he is young (only 30) yet this play feels like it was written by some 80 year old writer who had heard of You Tube but wasn't really sure what it did. It feels confused and it already feels a little dated.

Geraldine James in 13

There are too many characters, which would be okay if they all had strong roles but they don't. With 13 characters all having the same dream you need A LOT of understudies so you end up with these odd scenes, which have no importance just so the understudies know what is going on. At least that is why I hope they are there. It feels a waste of many good actors. Geraldine James and Danny Webb stand out in particular as a Thatcher-esque Prime Minister and her Richard Dawkins-esque friend from university. Webb delivers the only good line of the evening when he compares James' character (the fact I remember no names only a week on is very telling) that as she has no children (her son is dead) and no husband (he left her) she can dedicate herself to job, just like Thatcher. When pointed Thatcher did have children Webb's character hisses "but she didn't care about them!", though it could argued she was fond of Mark when got lost in some sand, somewhere.

I get the impression someone, somewhere thought this play was quite edgy; wars in Iran, atheist rhetoric that somehow attracts half a million followers despite sounding like what 15 year old might mumble to each other on the bus home from school and something resembling a story yet not actually being one. Oh, and there is the big black cube. That is the set in the National Theatre. A big black cube. There's a Boris Bike and some Rihanna. There is really nothing to this play and my respect grows for the acting profession. Getting a good part in a good play is easy. Getting a mediocre part in an awful play and not screaming "THIS IS SHIT, JUST GO HOME" at the interval in hard.

The story that is there is many interconnecting tales from the American diplomat, his wife  and their annoying daughter (who gets chopped into pieces and I think we are meant to be appalled but she really is annoying so you are quite glad she won't be in it anymore), the messiah-type figure (Trystan Gravelle), who may or may not have killed the Thatcher-like James' son and frankly who cares at 2hrs 45 minutes this play is too long with too much of nothing. I do worry when the National puts something like this on because it undos all the good work of what has been a good year for them. Part of me wants to recommend seeing it because it will never be performed again but the reason it will never be performed again is because it is so bad!

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