A Number - Review

This short play put two actors within a set that was a representation of a DNA helix- an appropriate symbol as the play deals with the controversial subject of human cloning. It also suggested a prison in which the protagonists were trapped.

The play debated the issue of nature versus nurture regarding the development of people.

A young man confronts his father after discovering that he has been cloned 21 times. Unsettled by this he demands to know how this has happened and if he is the real son. His father's explanations keep shifting.

A second son appears again taking issue with the old man over the cloning. Whilst physically identical to his brother there is a contrast in temperament - the first, fearful, whilst the second is angry and homicidal.

A third identical son arrives who is calm, happy with his life and contented over the cloning issue.

The play is enigmatic with unfinished sentences as the characters interrupt each other. To be effective the cast had to be spot on with timing and they were. This said I have to confess that this is a style of writing that does not appeal to me.

I saw this play at Chichester last year with Timothy and Sam West in the two roles and found the play frustrating and unsatisfying. Therefore it's to the credit of director, Strat Mastoris, that his production proved to be more entertaining. His characters seemed more vibrant and less sterile. Between him and his actors a great deal more humour was found in the text.

There were several fine directorial touches in addition to the clever set. Having the father watch a video of his young son or listening to the child's night time cries was a deft way of linking the scenes and denoting time changes.

As the father Tom Robinson brought out the edginess of the character with his constantly shifting eyes that evaded the gaze of his sons. His performance brought to mind a dodgy car dealer.

Paul Wilson had the opportunity to show off his acting skills by playing all the sons and did so well. He managed the three different personalities with fine distinction.

Congratulations to both actors for giving strong performances that intrigued as well as entertained.


Barrie Jerram
2 October 2007