Intriguing trailer for new play at Hampstead Theatre

A Number, Menier Chocolate Factory

Images-2 First trip to the Menier and what a fabulous little theatre it is. It feels like the Royal Court's more down to earth, less pretentious cousin with its cosy cafe bar, friendly staff and a strangely comforting saw-dusty smell.

There was one blot on its copy book though and I'll come to that in a moment but first, as some playwright once wrote, 'the plays the thing'. And what a punchy little play A Number is. I don't mean real fisty-cuffs like Sucker Punch over at big cuz's but boy it gives you a lot to think about during its 50 minutes performance time.

OK so playwright Caryl Churchill was on to a bit of a winner with me as I've had a fascination with cloning ever since reading Aldous Huxley's Brave New World as a teen. What she does is focus on the human response to cloning and raises questions about attitude towards life.

The story unfolds through separate encounters between a father and three of his cloned sons played by Timothy and Samuel West. Incidentally I can't imagine ever finding a production as satisfying without an actual father and son playing those parts.

It's opening encounter sees son Bernard, confronting the father who raised him about his discovery of a cloned brother and the possibility that he is just one of 'a number'. 

The situation is naturally more complex than just this encounter as Churchill squeezes in a revelation or two as well as putting the whole nature vs nature debate under the microscope.

As I say, it packs a punch, rattles along and leaves you a little breathless at the end, wild with thoughts about what you've just seen.

And the blot? Well next door to the auditorium is a bar and you could hear the music through the wall which spoilt the atmosphere somewhat. It made it hard to lose yourself in the play unfolding before you. It did me, anyway.

Other than that it gets a Rev Stan thumbs up with a rating of 4 out of 5.

A Number is on at the Menier until November 5.


Thought this might be slightly tricky with such a small cast but Samuel West was in Margaret Thatcher - Long Road to Finchley in which Andrea Riseborough was a superb Maggie and of course she starred alongside Mr Whishaw in The Pride at the Lucille Lortel Theatre in New York back in February.

And for a bonus point Mr W also took part in a rehearsed reading of Caryl Churchill's play Ice Cream as part of her birthday celebrations at the Royal Court a year or two ago. I believe Andrea Riseborough was in the same reading.