Audience members were given either odds or even numbers. Even the audience were just a number. The space is split into two by a wooden walk way with the audience on either side. There is a chair at one end and a door at the other.
This play by Caryl Churchill that was written in 2002 is really about identity and the debate about nature over nurture. It was written at the height of the discussion about cloning. It seems to be less about cloning and more about what is the essence of a person and how their identity is formed.
It turns out that the father, Salter has several clones of his original son. He made just one in an attempt to redeem himself after failing with his first son. The cloning company illegally made lots of copies. Salter’s story is a complicated one. His wife killed herself when his first son was only 2 and left him to cope on his own. He didn’t cope and sent the son into care when he was 4. Abnormally, he decided to make a clone so that he could try to cleanse his conscience. He didn’t give another thought to his original son. Brendan Charleson plays Salter with a coldness that only seems fitting in a man who has done terrible things.
As the play begins, the second son has found out that he is not the original. Son 1 is a screwed up, angry character who hates his father. Son 2 is a meek mannered soul who is trying to understand what his father has done. Stevie Raine distinguishes between the sons well with the damaged original and the second who is anguished when he finds out he’s just one of a number.
The set by Carl Davies is an able platform for the investigation that is taking pace on stage. Having the audience on both sides makes the pain and anguish even more vivid. Joe Fletcher lights the space with precision with every angle and shadow thought about. The seven pendant lights above the stage serve as sentinels illuminating the character’s pain and at times serving as spotlights to force them to look at themselves. The soundtrack by Tic Ashfield is a menacing and uncomfortable rumble under the whole show.
The play is a pithy, simple and ingenious study of the jeopardy of science getting involved in nature. It is also complex in its investigation of fatherly guilt and taking or not taking responsibility for your actions. However, the writing does speed through some of the issues. Son 1 murders son 2 and then kills himself. This is quite shocking but is slightly glossed over towards the end. We finally meet a third clone who has had nothing to do with the father. He is a happy but bland lookalike. He seems totally untroubled by the fact that he is a clone. This left me feeling unsatisfied at the end, as there were still a lot of issues that were left not fully investigated.
That said, this is an accomplished production that is taut with strong performances from both actors.
The Other Room until March 3, 2018