A Number, York Theatre Royal, review: 'Intense and brooding'
It is probably a bit glib to wonder whether it is now compulsory to cast a father and son in Caryl Churchill’s dystopian cloning drama. Timothy West and his son Samuel were widely acclaimed when they assumed the roles at Sheffield in 2006 and again in London four years later.
Now it is the turn of George and Niall Costigan.
It is easy to see why keeping it in the family, so to speak, brings an alluring something to this intense, brooding play.
What other relationships can glower and fizzle so? With whom else is a conversation so often riding on a knife edge where the tiniest of slights – real or perceived – can elicit sudden bouts of bad blood-letting?
Father and son are so much the product of each other’s expectations and failings that any director will surely want to bottle that and serve up the intoxicating draught live on stage.
The Costigans do a very decent job – especially father George looking back through the bottom of a vodka glass at a life marred by tragedy and an extraordinary experiment in human manipulation.
Niall has the tougher task to finesse the differences between the three sons, two of whom are the clones of an ill-starred first born.
He is more convincing as the nice, thoughtful copies rather than the evil original but there is clarity to the performance which steers the viewer through the occasionally confusing structure and dialogue and the hour crackles away enjoyably.
At the beginning of the century when the world was worrying about the fallout from Dolly the Sheep, GM crops and the long term impact unfettered tampering with DNA, A Number was hailed as an important and timely play.
It is certainly a weighty piece of work examining core questions of who we are and how we come to be that person – a theme most brilliantly examined in the final scene as father and son number three struggle to get to the nub of the issue.
But perhaps the subject matter falls a victim of being too recent in the memory to surprise us with its prescience whilst not sufficiently contemporaneous to be cutting edge.
Today questions of identity are as much tied up in our worries over big data and internet surveillance as they are about the runaway ethics of biology.
To 24 May.
Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Edward Heath 'raped 12 year-old boy at Mayfair flat'
- 2 Sabrina Corgatelli: US hunting tourist posts picture of herself with dead giraffe after Cecil the lion outrage
- 3 Porn block in India: hundreds of sexual websites banned, internet outraged
- 4 Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale divorce: One of music industry’s most enduring couples announce split after 12 years of marriage
- 5 A-level results 2015: UK exam board OCR admits it 'estimates' hundreds of pupils' grades after papers 'go missing'
Artist Jamie McCartney: How The Great Wall of Vagina is a stand against 'body fascism'
Michael B Jordan and Kate Mara handle excruciatingly awkward and offensive interview questions like pros
Game of Thrones season 6: 'A Song of Ice and Fire should be finished by 1998,' said George R. R. Martin, 'but don't hold your breath'
Sherlock season 4: Benedict Cumberbatch will be 'a lot less brattish' in Victorian special
Find out what the number one film was on the day you were born and watch its trailer
Is Britain really full up? Are migrants taking our jobs? Leading academic answers the most common anti-immigration claims
Calais Migrant Crisis: Deputy Mayor of Calais labels Cameron's use of 'swarm' as 'racist' and 'ignorant'
Chris Leslie: Jeremy Corbyn's anti-austerity agenda will harm the poor, says Labour shadow Chancellor
Landlords renting properties to illegal immigrants to face up to five years in prison
While we fixate on Calais, the Home Office is quietly deporting dozens of migrants on 'ghost flights'
Calais crisis: The seven claims made about the migrants - and the reality