Paul Johnson | 24 Sep 2011 15:59pm
‘To clone or not to clone’ is the compelling theme of Caryl Churchill’s award winning play A Number. Churchill is established as one of Britain’s outstanding dramatists with a reputation achieved during more than 30 years of output. That endeavour has been, at times, both provocative and inventive, traversing the dramatic spectrum. Cutting edge work does not immediately attract a mainstream audience and so perhaps Top Girls, a play exploring how women’s histories have been submerged by a masculine approach to history, has been the most popular and accessible. A Number is also accessible but it needs close attention as Churchill offers intellectual argument with a domestic setting. It got that close attention by a capacity audience at the Walton Riverhouse Barn this week when the Lighted Fools Company presented it. The play is in five episodic scenes and gives a concentrated one-hour look at the dilemma(s) of cloning. Each scene builds one upon the other. Caryl Churchill reveals a moral and emotional maze about personal identity, truth, nature and nurture. The play is a two-hander and in the Lighted Fools production Richard Parish plays the Father determined to replicate a lost son, opposite David Webb, as the first replicate. Intriguingly Webb evolves as his second – or is he the third or seventh son? – because an error has resulted in ‘a number’ of duplications, each vying for attention and in need of love and support. Inevitably jealousies emerge. The playing was even handed with two performers fully in charge of their characters. Richard Parish imperceptively progressed from a bereft Father to an experimental voyeur, with disquieting authority. Caryl Churchill’s dialogue can be difficult to interpret; the absence of punctuation occasionally suggests the density of fruitcake but Parish’s timing was realistic and his attention to phrasing, authentic. David Webb had specific challenges. He was playing differing sons – identical but dissimilar – their childhood environments had offered shifting influences. He successfully achieved this by vocal intonation and physical stance. A Number is increasingly attracting attention as science is drawn towards what some allege as ‘the inevitable’; they suggest cloning a human being will be achieved despite legislation and moral advice. Churchill’s intense review of the moral maze affecting us is but a peek into the future. I am unsurprised the audience at the Riverhouse Barn was silent and transfixed. The production was directed by Anthony Norman.
- : user
- : 14/07/2006