Theatre Review: A Number – Studio Underground, Perth (13.04.13)

English playwright Caryl Churchill’s play A Number is the latest production to be presented by Perth Theatre Company, the first of their new season. Directed by Artistic Director Melissa Cantwell, the production is subtle and thought provoking, leaving the audience with lingering questions and plenty to think about. Though ostensibly the play could be described as science fiction. It is at its core a very human story, one that revolves heavily around the notions of identity, individuality and humanity.

Despite these weighty themes, there is a simplicity and sparseness in the telling. The staging is simple, a wooden table and chairs, offering a dystopian twist on the family kitchen. There is nothing there to distract the audience from the dialogue and interactions between characters. It is through these interactions that we learn of Salter’s lies and neglect, and varying tangle of emotions exhibited by Bernard.

Both Kim Gyngell and Brent Hill produce impressive performances as Salter and Bernard/Michael respectively, with Hill in particular showing great talent in bringing to life three separate and distinct versions of the same character. The play is essentially dialogue driven, developed through the dialogue between Salter and his “sons”. There is an obvious rapport between the two actors, one that crosses over into their respective characters.

A Number a thought provoking, engaging and intimate production, providing the audience an intelligent and nuanced meditation on the nature of humanity and the prospects of individuality, at a time when scientific advancements have made cloning a possibility. It is a play that lingers in the mind, provokes debate and conversation, and might even provoke you too into google searching whether clones would have the same fingerprints.

A Number continues until April 27, Studio Underground, State Theatre Centre of WA. Tickets available from Ticketek. For more information visit


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Simon Clark

Books Editor. An admirer of songs and reader of books. Simon has a PhD in English and Comparative Literature. All errant apostrophes are his own.