A Number, Nuffield Theatre in Southampton

DownloadedFile-1THE current production at the Nuffield Theatre in Southampton is not like anything the venue’s audience has ever seen before – probably not like anything ANY audience has seen before.

Everyone is given a number with their tickets, and asked to stay in the bar area until they are called to the auditorium, which has been created on four sides of a glazed cube – a fish tank with mirrored walls when the internal lights are on, but a mirror when they are off.

Split into four groups, the audience sits contemplating itself before a crash and they are watching two men and a chair, reflected to infinity.

The younger man says “A NUMBER!!” and so begins Caryl Churchill’s 2002 play about cloning.

Salter, who may or may not be a professor of mathematics, has sons, to one of whom he is very close. They are different from most people’s sons in that, to all intents and purposes, they are identical.

Not only does the fascinating, often terrifying, worrying and brilliantly-realised play question the philosophical and ethical issues around the creation of clones, but it touches on age old stories of sibling rivalry and questions of nature and nurture.

In just under an hour the audience is introduced to the stories spun by Salter (John Shrapnel) to three of his sons, all played by his real son Lex Shrapnel. Each of them is predicated by his expectations.

Between each short scene the audience is again faced by its mirror image.

It is a remarkable production, directed by Michael Longhurst and designed by Tom Scutt, powerfully performed by these two men we watch like goldfish in a bowl, until we realise they are ourselves.

Don’t miss the chance to see it. It continues until 22nd February.



Photographs Richard Budd

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