This time of year the city of Edinburgh taps into the cerebral part of a collective brain from which once sprung the Scottish Enlightenment of Adam Smith et al. Yes, the Science Festival is in town, & with it a rather sciencey play, Caryl Churchill’s ‘A Number.‘ Its subject is human cloning & its drama thrives upon the discovery of a young man – Bernard Black – that he is one of many clones of his father’s long dead son. The hour-long story is told with two just actors, Lyceum stalwarts Peter Forbes (Michael) and Brian Ferguson (Bernard); & it is the familiarity they possess concerning each other’s acting nuances which helps bring to life such an intimate script.
It is the acting, actually, which is worth the admission fee; the ebbs & flows of Brian Ferguson’s emotions grab your watching psyche you like a butcher’s hook. Behind them, a simple & stark stage helps us to focus on the progress of their conversations. These run the full gamut of emotions, a dichotomy of feelings of fear, pain & regret as the godlike possibilities of man’s intellectual endeavor come home to roost. Director Zinnie Harris has done well to capture the spirit Churchill’s vision, & as one leaves the theatre, discussion immediately begins on the ethical questions raised in the last hour. A Number, then, is less a play & more an intense Socratic dialogue, but luckily the acting on this occasion was superb.
Reviewer : Damian Beeson Bullen