Theatre in Wales

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A Number

The Other Room , The Other Room , February-15-18
A Number by The Other Room This first play in The Other Room’s ‘Lovesick’ season by multi-award winning playwright Caryl Churchill is a fascinating addition to the very high quality of work this small theatre has continued to achieve since its opening in 2014. Churchill explores the, yet to come, world of human cloning. Ed Madden’s atmospheric productions and the long narrow stage, with the audience on either side makes us feel we are listening in on a private conversation.

There are just two actors on the stage: Brendan Charleson and Stevie Raine, they both give memorable and compelling performances. They capture the atonal rhythms of Churchill’s taught, somewhat surreal writing perfectly, convincing us that we are listening to normal conversation. Though the subject of their conversation is far from normal – but how far?

Charleson’s character is a sad man, desperately needing love, which he has provided for himself by very unusual means and is now trying to cope with the consequences. As he talks to his ‘sons’ he achieves an excellent quality of reality that is totally captivating. Raine also has this quality, though which of the three parts he plays is the real one, is at times difficult to work out.

Some years ago Salter suffered the tragic loss of both his son and his wife. He set about replacing his son, a son he could love again, by laboratory means but he got more than he bargained for. Unknown at the time the doctors did some extra cloning themselves. It’s necessary to give away some of this extraordinary story in order to indicate the extraordinary nature of these goings on and the skillful way the actors handle both the dialogue and the situation giving it a wonderful and curious normalness.

Bernard 2 is the first to call on his crumpled, aging father, who pleads for his love. Bernard 2 is in a difficult position, uncertain whether he has it to give. When Bernard 1 returns, full of anger at his situation, there are several copies of him gadding about! He is unable, or is it unwilling to forge a relationship with his father and leaves in a very agitated manner.

Bernard 2 returns. Raine makes little changes to his appearance between the two Bernards, after all they are clones. The Bernards have met and the consequences are not good. Salter is bereft and we feel his pain.

Another clone comes visiting, very up beat. They have never net before. He, Michael Black, still Raine but smart suited this time. He impresses Salter with his normal life style – married, children and a proper job. They strive to find a human bond between them. They fail to connect. But we are still tingling inside.

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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