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Review Roundup: National Theatre's 13

Morning in London, Autumn 2011. Across the city, people wake up from an identical, terrifying dream. At the same moment, a young man named John returns home after years away to find economic gloom, ineffective protest, and a Prime Minister about to declare war. But John has a vision for the future and his ideas inspire an increasing number of followers. With conflict looming in the Middle-East, their protest takes them to the centre of the city, to the heart of government, where coincidences, omens and visions collide with political reality.

From the writer of Earthquakes in London comes an epic new play. Set in a dark and magical landscape of singing pensioners, fanatical atheists and imminent apocalypse, it depicts a London both familiar and strange, a London staring into the void. In a year which has seen governments fall and hundreds of thousands take to the streets, 13 explores the meaning of personal responsibility, the hold that the past has over the future and the nature of belief itself.

Michael Billington, GuardianMike Bartlett has moved from writing minimalist dramas to maximalist epics without any intervening stage of development. Having tackled climate change in Earthquakes in London, he now comes up with another big phantasmagoric fable, one that acquires urgency and force by asking if there is any alternative to freemarket capitalism and unbridled military adventurism.

Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard:There's some nice work from Geraldine James as the PM, steely but with vulnerability underneath, and from Danny Webb as her guru, while Adam James excels as an obnoxious solicitor surprised by the power of prayer. The result is a memorable essay in widescreen theatre. Politically, it feels naïve. Some of the material appears overstretched, and some seems underdeveloped. But Bartlett's ambition is distinctive and immense.

Charles Spencer, Daily Telegraph: No one could accuse Mike Bartlett of lack of ambition. In his last play at The National Theatre, Earthquakes in London, he came up with a wild, dreamlike piece about families, climate change and the possible end of the world, which began in the 1960s and ended up in the 26th century. Now he has come up with this new piece in which a Christ-like figure arrives in a dystopian present-day London where the inhabitants are all afflicted by the same terrible nightmare each night

Matt Trueman, Whatsonstage: 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

Liby Purves, The Times: 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

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