Mike Bartlett

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Plays by Mike Bartlett

13

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

At the beginning of Bartlett’s political and profound epic play, twelve completely different people across London wake up from an identical, terrifying dream – monsters and explosions, thousands of voices. 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 a way to make it happen.

Coincidences, omens and visions collide with political reality in this ambitious and dextrous play, which depicts a London both familiar and strange, a London staring into the void.

13 explores the meaning of personal responsibility, the hold that the past has over the future and the nature of belief itself.

The play was first performed in 2011 at the National Theatre, London.

Bull

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Mike Bartlett's Bull is a play about vicious office politics. It was first performed at the Crucible Studio Theatre, Sheffield, on 6 February 2013, before transferring to 59E59 Theaters, New York, as part of the Brits Off Broadway season on 25 April 2013.

The play is intended to be performed with 'a minimum of scenery, props and furniture, in order to keep the focus on the drama of the scene'. Three youngish business people – Tony, Isobel and Thomas – are waiting to hear which of them will lose his or her job. As they await the arrival of their boss, Carter, to deliver the verdict, the three of them debate each other’s chances of survival. For alpha male Tony and calculating Isobel, it’s clear that Thomas is getting the chop. And in the struggle for survival, no blow is too low.

The play was seen by some critics as a companion piece to Bartlett’s earlier play Cock (Royal Court Theatre, 2009), which unpicks a love triangle with the same unflinching honesty.

The premiere production was directed by Clare Lizzimore and designed by Soutra Gilmour, with Adam James as Tony, Adrian Lukis as Carter, Eleanor Matsuura as Isobel and Sam Troughton as Thomas. In New York, the part of Carter was played by Neil Stuke.

Bull won Best New Play at the UK Theatre Awards in 2013.

The production was revived at the Young Vic, London, on 8 January 2015. It went on to win the Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre in 2015.

Game

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Mike Bartlett's Game is a play that explores ideas about aspiration and voyeurism, focussing on a young couple trying to create a home amidst a housing crisis. When offered the house of their dreams, a moral and ethical dilemma unfolds as the couple discover how far they are willing to go to retain it, and at what personal cost. Game was first performed at the Almeida Theatre, London, on 23 February 2015.

The play's action takes place in two adjacent, interrelated spaces: 'the house', where the young couple, Carly and Ashley, live; and 'the hides', where David, an ex-soldier, supervises punters paying £500 a go to fire tranquiliser shots at the occupants of the house. As the stakes are raised ever higher, Carly and Ashley find that they can no longer enjoy any kind of privacy, and even their nine-year-old son Liam is a legitimate target.

For the Almeida Theatre premiere, directed by Sacha Wares and designed by Miriam Buether, the auditorium was remodelled with the audience seated in dark, camouflage-draped 'hides', viewing the action via TV monitors with direct sight into the mocked-up, two-floor living space also granted by rising and falling shutters. Headphones worn by audience members relayed voice-simulated instructions and live-feed dialogue.

The cast was Georgina Beedle, Clare Burt, Daniel Cerqueira, Laurence Grant, Kevin Harvey (as David), Chloe Hesar, Jodie McNee (as Carly), Mike Noble (as Ashley), Ben Righton, Richard Sumitro and Susan Wokoma, with Oscar Bennett, Jonah Miller and Ben Roberts alternating as Liam.

An Intervention

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Mike Bartlett's play An Intervention is a two-hander about friendship, its responsibilities, and the roles it forces us to play. It was first performed on 16 April 2014 at Watford Palace Theatre in a co-production with Paines Plough.

The play's two characters, who in the script are designated A and B, 'can be played by actors of any age, gender or ethnicity' (in the premiere production, A was played by a woman and B by a man, so for the purposes of clarity this description follows suit). 'The play takes place in front of curtains – like Morecambe and Wise, or Abbott and Costello.' A is bright and funny with a vulnerable edge, particularly when she drinks too much. B is straighter and perhaps more conventional, but A brings out the best in him. They've always worked well together, but their friendship is no longer as close as it once was. B has a new girlfriend called Hannah. A predicts it will end in tears. B accuses A of having a drink problem. Things get worse when A goes on a march to protest against the government's military intervention in another country, while B supports the war. Neither can tolerate the other's position: but when should a friend step in, and how?

The premiere production was directed by James Grieve and designed by Lucy Osborne, with Rachael Stirling as A and John Hollingworth as B.

The premiere of An Intervention followed shortly after that of Bartlett's King Charles III, which was first performed at the Almeida Theatre, London, on 3 April 2014. Several reviewers commented on the contrast between the expansive, mock-Shakespearean form of King Charles III and the more condensed, intimate, front-of-curtain drama of An Intervention. In his review for the Daily Telegraph, Matt Trueman suggested that the two plays exhibited Bartlett's opposing 'minimalist and monsterist' tendencies and that the playwright 'could almost be his own double act'.

King Charles III

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Mike Bartlett's King Charles III is a ‘future history play’ that speculates about events following the death of the reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, and the subsequent coronation of her son as King Charles. Drawing on the style and structure of a Shakespearean history play, it explores the people beneath the crowns, the unwritten rules of British democracy, and the conscience of the Royal Family.

It was first performed at the Almeida Theatre, London, on 3 April 2014. The production transferred to the West End's Wyndham's Theatre from 2 September 2014 for an initial three-month run, later announcing an extension to the end of January 2015.

The play is in five acts and is written in blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameters, the form most commonly used by Shakespeare in his plays). It begins with a Prologue presenting the funeral procession of Queen Elizabeth II. Charles, as the new King, then holds his first weekly audience with the Prime Minister, principally discussing a new bill for statutory regulation of the press. The bill has already been passed by the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and is only awaiting Charles' royal assent to become law. Charles, however, is concerned that the law places excessive restrictions on the freedom of the press, and refuses to grant his assent. In a subplot, Prince Harry falls for Jess, an art student with republican convictions. Both Charles and Prince William are visited by the ghost of Princess Diana, who promises each that he will become 'the greatest king of all'. The Prime Minister holds a crisis meeting over the press bill with the Leader of the Opposition, and then threatens to pass a new law bypassing the royal assent. But Charles uses his royal prerogative to dissolve parliament. Protests break out across the country. Charles increases the armed guard at Buckingham Palace, offers his protection to Jess (whom the media have made the centre of a sex scandal) and agrees to Harry's wish to become a commoner. Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, presents a way forward: William should offer himself as a mediator between parliament and his father. When William announces this at a press conference without his father's knowledge and consent, Charles reacts angrily, seeing it as a betrayal; but ultimately the King finds himself forced to abdicate in favour of William, who will sign the press bill and restore the status quo between crown and parliament. The play concludes with Harry's rejection of Jess, and William and Kate's coronation.

The Almeida Theatre premiere was directed by Rupert Goold and designed by Tom Scutt. It was performed by Katie Brayben, Oliver Chris, Richard Goulding, Nyasha Hatendi, Adam James, Margot Leicester, Tim Pigott-Smith (as Charles), Tom Robertson, Nicholas Rowe, Nick Sampson, Tafline Steen, LydiaWilson, Anna-Helena McLean and Belinda Sykes.

The critical response to the play was very favourable. Charles Spencer in The Daily Telegraph called it 'the most spectacular, gripping and wickedly entertaining piece of lèse-majesté that British theatre has ever seen'. Dominic Maxwell in The Times declared that 'Theatre doesn’t get much better than this'. The critic for Time Out described it as 'a meaty, hilarious, dizzyingly audacious state of the nation political thriller'.

The play went on to win Best New Play at both the Critics' Circle Theatre Awards and the Olivier Awards. It also won South Bank Sky Arts Theatre Award.

In an essay included in the hardback edition of the play (Nick Hern Books, 2014), Mike Bartlett writes 'The idea for King Charles III arrived in my imagination with the form and the content very clear, and inextricably linked. ... An epic royal family drama, dealing with power and national constitution, was the content, and therefore the form had surely to be Shakespearean.'

Following its West End run, the play began a UK tour at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in September 2015 with Robert Powell in the role of Charles. The play transferred to Broadway for a limited engagement with the original London cast, running at the Music Box Theatre from 1 November 2015 until 31 January 2016, following previews from 10 October 2015.

Wild

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Mike Bartlett's Wild is a darkly comic play about challenging the status quo at a global level, based on the case of Edward Snowden, the American whistleblower who copied and leaked classified information from the US National Security Agency in 2013. The play was first performed at Hampstead Theatre, London, on 11 June 2016.

The play takes place, according to the opening stage direction, in a 'nondescript hotel room'. Andrew is an American whistleblower whose outrage at governmental use of mass surveillance has made him a stateless fugitive. He is currently holed up in a Moscow hotel, where he is visited separately by two people who seem to be messengers from an unnamed, WikiLeaks-style organisation offering him protection. The first, identified in the script only as 'Woman', introduces herself facetiously as 'Miss Prism', a character from Oscar Wilde's play, The Importance of Being Earnest. The second visitor, identified only as 'Man', initially claims to have no knowledge of the first. But this, as Andrew is set to discover, is a world in which nothing is certain: everything is in question, from personal identity to the very existence of that 'nondescript hotel room' Andrew believes he is occupying.

The Hampstead Theatre premiere was directed by James Macdonald and designed by Miriam Buether, with Caoilfhionn Dunne as Woman, Jack Farthing as Andrew and John Mackay as Man.

The final performance of the Hampstead Theatre run, on Saturday 23 July, was live-streamed worldwide on the internet.

Picture of Mike Bartlett

© The Agency London Ltd

Mike Barlett is an award-winning playwright whose plays include Game (Almeida Theatre); An Intervention (Paines Plough/Watford Palace Theatre); King Charles III (Almeida/West End); Bull (Sheffield Theatres/Off-Broadway); Medea (Glasgow Citizens/Headlong); Chariots of Fire (based on the film; Hampstead/West End); 13 (National Theatre); Love, Love, Love (Paines Plough/Plymouth Drum/Royal Court); Earthquakes in London (Headlong/National Theatre); Cock (Royal Court/Off-Broadway); Artefacts (Nabokov/Bush); Contractions and My Child (Royal Court).

He was Writer-in-Residence at the National Theatre in 2011, and the Pearson Playwright-in-Residence at the Royal Court Theatre in 2007. Cock won an Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre in 2010. Love, Love, Love won the TMA Best New Play Award in 2011. Bull won the same award in 2013. King Charles III won the Critics’ Circle Award for Best New Play in 2015.

He has written seven plays for BBC Radio, winning the Writers’ Guild Tinniswood and Imison prizes for Not Talking, and his three-part television series, The Town, was broadcast on ITV1 in 2012 and nominated for a BAFTA for Breakthrough Talent.