A Number provides sensational performances and a heartbreaking story.

Credit – Manuel Harlan

A Number is a play written by Caryl Churchill, starring Lennie James (Line of Duty, Walking Dead) and Paapa Essiedu (I May Destroy You). The play is a drama, about cloning. It premiered in 2002 – when the cloning of Dolly the Sheep was still a hot topic. Subsequently, the play has had many revivals throughout the years, the last one was only 2 years ago at the Bridge Theatre. 

James plays Salter, a bit of a geezer, who had his son cloned after he passed away in order to rewrite his parenting mistakes. Which included drinking too much, and being absent. However unbeknownst to him, the doctors actually made multiple clones. James plays this role very well, you even at times feel empathy for the character as he admits his shortcomings. 

Essiedu plays all of the sons, Bernard (B1), (Bernard) B2 and Michael. The play begins with Bernard 1 discovering about the clones, and quizzing his father about these. Essiedu is absolute magic in this play. He really embodies the 3 characters, and makes them distinctly separate and fully realised ones. He also has some crazily fast costume changes which are very impressive.

London-Based Artist and Stage Designer, Es Devlin designed the set. It is a box-like structure on stage with an apartment within it. All the furnishings appear as if they could be purchased from Ikea, and the stage is flooded in bright blood red light. The singular exception to this being Bernard 1’s photograph which is in full colour on the shelf. 

Credit – Manuel Harlan

James and Essiedu work so well together. Their onstage chemistry is everything needed for the audience to feel what the characters are going through. It’s emotional and honest and they’re a pleasure to watch together. 

The play is short but sweet, and still leaves you with enough to think about afterwards. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Credit: Manuel Harlan

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