Posts Tagged ‘A Number’

What an intriguing, fascinating and challenging 65 minutes this is. Nick Payne’s play tells the story of a relationship from first meeting at a friends BBQ to its tragic and premature end, but it’s actually relationships plural – happening in parallel universes – I think.

It’s a two-hander performed on a platform with no props. The audience sits on all four sides. The ceiling is obscured by white balloons through which light shines. Most scenes are played out a handful of times, though each one is in some way different, depending on the universe? Somehow it tells a captivating human story / stories. It owes something in structure to Caryl Churchill’s A Number and in production style to Mike Bartlett’s Cock (the play!), but it’s a highly original piece.

It’s great to see actors of the calibre of Sally Hawkins & Rafe Spall rise to such challenging roles in a small intimate space without the aid of set, props or music. These performances are raw and thrilling. Part of me feels privileged to be one of only a few thousand who will see them, but the other part feels sad that they will only be seen by as many people as fill the Olivier on just three nights – not that it would work in the Olivier. Lets see them both in something that would on one of our big stages soon please.

Plays that play with structure are often clever but don’t entertain. I’m not sure I fully understand this one, but it was both stimulating and satisfying.

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Michael Gambon is stunning in Beckett’s 50-minute monologue. It’s a long time before he moves and you can feel the tension in the audience ‘is he OK?’. When he does, he’s like a cross between King Lear and a clown. He hardly speaks, but his face and movement tell you much. I can’t say I entirely understand it (typical Beckett) but it’s worth the visit just to see the master in action.

With this and Caryl Churchill’s 50-minute two-hander A Number sandwiching Arthur Miller’s Broken Glass, I have to say the latter does feel even like a feast though….and at 60p a minute (with my early booking discount!) it is a bit cheeky – it made me think that maybe the opera is good value after all…..

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