A Number by Caryl Churchill. The Bridge, Potters Field Park, London SE1 to 14 March 2020. 4****. William Russell

A Number
By Caryl Churchill
The Bridge Theatre, Potters Field Park, London SE1 2SG to 14 March 2020.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm
Runs 60 mins No interval.
TICKETS: 0333 320 0052
Reviews: William Russell 23 February.
Hot on the heels of Churchill’s Far Away at the Donmar comes this fine revival of her 2002 play about cloning humans. The Bridge is a difficult theatre – the auditorium is hangar like and this is a play one would prefer in a more intimate space perhaps but it is very well performed and has been quite dazzlingly set. Indeed the brilliance of the set, which involves a series of miraculous changes, is almost too brilliant as one starts to wonder how on earth this apron stage on which is set a modest suburban living room can suddenly change to a view of the kitchen, the dining room of the house, or its living room. There is a sudden blackout and what seems like seconds later everything has changed. Perhaps it is a case of leaving humming the sets, or would be were the play astonishingly topical – think the hapless briefly a Downing Street employee Mr Sobieski and eugenics – and the performances of Roger Allam and Colin Morgan so good. Maybe it is a pity Allam has chosen to play the role using his Thursday voice from Endeavour, especially as the house Salter inhabits is a dead ringer for the one in the television series occupied by the Thursdays. It does tend to conjure up other associations.
Salter has fathered a son who has been cloned some 20 times. We meet him first with what we think is the real son, but is in fact the first Michael clone, the real son having suposedly been killed in an accident. Except he was not and when he appears he is totally hostile towards his father. The dislike is mututal. Allam remains his crumpled self throughout, but Morgan makes a series of costume changes so that each clone, while patently the same flesh, is a very different being. Like Far Away Churchill is looking at the horrors advances in science can bring, when things hopefully beneficial are misused, as well as at the relationship between father and son. It makes for a gripping hour, although a more intimate setting might be better. Polly Findlay’s production is stunning, Allam and Morgan could not be bettered, and there are that set by Lizzie Clachan and he music by Marc Tritschler which makes the blackouts moments of terror as you wait to see what will emerge. That it is a suburban normality makes it all the more scary.

Salter: Roger Allam
Michael: Colin Morgan.

Director: Polly Findlay.
Designer: Lizzie Clachan.
Lighting Designer: Peter Mumford.
Sound Designer: Carolyn Downing.
Composer: Mark Tritschler.
Production Photographs: Johan Persson.

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