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After a fast-paced first half, Mike Bartlett’s timely and topical new play side-lines most of the characters he’s created in favour of a tripartite debate which leaves them stranded till the closing scenes.

Set in a dystopian London of shared nightmares and widespread dissatisfaction, where Geraldine James’ tough Conservative PM is deciding whether to go to war against Iran, it questions the alternative power of social networking as Trystan Gravelle’s scruffy John, missing presumed dead, returns Christ-like to unite thousands of demonstrators in the belief of belief itself.

Played out on a bleak, black set, Thea Sharrock’s well-acted production (with particularly strong performances from Adam James as a brash lawyer and Danny Webb as an influential atheist academic) ably orchestrates the overlapping early scenes, but ultimately Bartlett’s ambition outstrips his final achievement.


Olivier at the National, South Bank, SE1 9PX
020 7452 3000
Tube: Waterloo
Until January 8
£12 - £30 as part of the Travelex season
nationaltheatre.org.uk

- Louise Kingsley


Talkback


13, Olivier at the National
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