It would be difficult (or churlish) to fault this production of 'A Number'. Caryl Churchill's play is a lean, fast-paced and thought-provoking portrayal of the consequences of human cloning. The boys, known clinically as B1, B2 and B3, search for their identities, unsure how 'unique' it is possible for them to be. Ironically, they exhibit very different personalities, with the 'original' becoming alienated and aggressive - he kills one of his clone brothers (the one we get to know and like the most) before killing himself. The other clone we meet (there are 20 in all) is the dullest of the bunch - well, he is a maths teacher! - who even thinks the whole experiment is fun.
The brothers are played by a single actor, Pip Nixon, who must convey the brothers' very different personality types - philosophical, threatening and bland. Michael Hughes, meanwhile, has the difficult job of expressing the wide range of emotions inherent in his role as Salter, the father - by turns bullish, hectoring, affectionate, vulnerable, angry, perplexed and tragically bereft. The great strength of the production is that both actors present such a kaleidoscope of character and emotion with verve and conviction.
Churchill's terse dialogue is matched by Andrew Joshi's spare studio set which allows the audience to focus on the all-important thoughts and feelings. Without the distraction of music and special effects, you can hear the minds thinking.
This is theatre of ideas at its best: fluid, fast and provocative.