At the age of 35, Bernard discovers that he is not who he thought he was; he is, in fact, one of a number of clones created by his father to correct the paternal mistakes of the past... Caryl Churchill's trail-blazing play interrogates preconceptions of belonging and belief, exposes the fragility of the father/son relationship and makes the impulse to start afresh arrestingly complicated.
The exploration of family ties is made more poignant in this production with the casting of real life father and son John and Lex Shrapnel. With a dash of wry humour, John Shrapnel as the father is initially ineffectual, but as Churchill's stark script cuts deep he soon has the audience wincing and weeping with a powerful yet understated monologue to the original son: 'I spared you though you were this disgusting thing by then anyone in their right mind would have squashed you'.
Playing on the sense of sameness and difference, Lex Shrapnel deftly adopts on distinct mannerisms, posture and accent to play each of the three Bernards we encounter. But each version of the character is haunted by his duplicates, as the Tom Scrutt's mirrored set creates a series of reflections. This intensely claustrophobic design, staged inside an infinity box with the audience watching through two way mirrors that reflect endless versions of the two actors,
With no stage directions, the script is a potential blank canvas for directors. Micheal Longhurst elegantly reflects the show's layers of self-consciousness. Even the audience become culpable, as we are subtly reduce to mere numbers (we're not giving anything else away).
A Number is the second of Churchill’s plays to come to the Young Vic in recent months; Far Away enjoyed a sold out run at the Clare studio in 2014. Her plays certainly don't allow mindless, easy watching, but if you like to be challenged and for theatre to alter your ideas, then book now, before it sells out.
|What||A Number, Young Vic|
The Young Vic
66 The Cut , Waterloo, London, SE1 8LZ | MAP
|Nearest tube||Waterloo (underground)|
03 Jul 15 – 15 Aug 15, 7:45 PM – 10:00 PM
|Website||Click here to book via the Young Vic|