A NUMBER To 11 September.

Scarborough.

A NUMBER
by Caryl Churchill.

Stephen Joseph Theatre (McCarthy) In rep to 28 August
1pm 21, 25, 27 Aug.
2.45pm 28 Aug (in a double-bill with Twenty: 20.
and Tour to 11 September 2010.
Runs 45min No interval.

TICKETS: 01723 370541.
www.sjt.uk.con (Scarborough performances).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 11 August.

Highly individual look at cloning.
One of Caryl Churchill’s qualities as a dramatist is her ability to find a form for each play that intensifies its meaning. In A Number a sense of isolation and uncertainty building through the separate scenes with their pared-down, intercutting dialogue, full of question, assertion and justification, reflects the uncertainty over identity that has always been present for people who discover they are adopted.

Churchill shows a modern, more intense version of this feeling in an age when human cloning has become seriously conceivable. Meeting several variants of his child, Salter has to explain why he went in for cloning a generation back, and face the complex feelings from each offspring he meets.

Naturally, each wants to know if they are the original, ‘real’ son. As Richard Galazka takes or removes a cap from a grey filing-cabinet between scenes in Adam Sunderland’s appropriately economical production, the link is clear: what emerges from a drawer is not the cleanness of scientific data, but a personality-expressing piece of headgear. Science divorced from its human implications creates distress.

Alike in appearance, all his sons differ in character, mild or aggressive. The impact of upbringing brings variety. For Salter, there’s the age-old attempt to justify past actions to the young people they affect. And to deflect responsibility by talk of suing the scientist who turned the clone Salter wanted into a twenty-long line-up.

Simply staged by designer Michael Roberts on the front-centre of the McCarthy’s stage, dimmed-lighting and music formally marking-off the scenes, with just a desk, chairs and the filing-cabinet, this is one of the brisker productions the play has received. Yet with Christopher Wilkinson’s Salter increasingly strained in justifying actions that must have seemed like opportunities bestowed by scientific progress at the time, and Galazka as baffled by his indeterminate origin whether mild or angry, it’s a forceful forty-five minutes.

And a development of the Stephen Joseph’s lunchtime programme beyond its more usual cosy realism. Something like that is, apparently, provided in James Quinn’s new cricketing one-acter Twenty: 20, also in the lunchtime season, and touring with the Churchill around North Yorkshire.

Salter: Christopher Wilkinson.
Young Bernard/Old Bernard/Michael: Richard Galazka.

Director: Adam Sunderland.
Designer: Michael Roberts.

2010-08-22 00:59:42

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