Phil Willmott reviews futuristic thriller at the National Theatre
Venue: Olivier, National Theatre, London, October 18-January 8
Trystan Gravelle, Geraldine James, Danny Webb
Projected on to the tower of the National Theatre are the ominous words “13 How are you sleeping?” It sounds like a poster campaign for some new HBO thriller and if you love the sweep of TV shows like HEROES you won’t be disappointed by the spectacular staging of this epic new play on the NTs biggest stage.
A huge, and I mean huge, rotating cube looms out at you through the darkness and a series of interlinking plots unfold in, on and around it as it spins, rises and falls. The characters have one thing in common they’re sleep is disturbed by apocalyptic nightmares and they’re soon in the thrall of a charismatic young preacher (played by Trystan Gravelle) in the park who turns out to hold the key to everyone’s future.
The second act boils down to a massive debate between the unlikely profit and Geraldine James as a fictional prime minister. Writer Mike Bartlett had a big hit at this same address last year when his play EARTHQUAKES IN LONDON took a similarly epic look at climate change. I love the ambition of this writers work even if he frustratingly tends to bend the facts to fit his hypothesis.
The action definitely slows after the interval but this remains a big, thought provoking play even when it gets stuck in “talking heads” mode.
Cleverly directed by Thea Sharrock and ambitiously designed by Tom Scutt it’s an evening that will stick in your mind for a long time to come and provoke plenty of interesting discussion afterwards.
To book tickets see here: www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/
**** (Four stars) A memorable, ambitious night of topical theatre even if it does get bogged down a little after the interval.