The play begins with the description of the original creation of the play A Number was launched on 23 September 2002 at the Royal Court Theatre. Stephen Daldry was the director while Ian MacNeil was the designer. The casts included Salter, played by Michael Gambon and Bernard 1, 2 and Michael Black being played by Daniel Craig. Rick Fisher was in charge of designing the lighting while the sound designer was Ian Dickinson.
The exposition of the play A Number follows a father, Salter, who has one of his sons cloned and who came to the discovery that a devious scientists made use of his genetic material for the purpose of creating several more clones. As the play starts, Salter is in dialogue with Bernard 2, the first clone and Salter takes him as his genuine son. It then becomes obvious that the comprehension of Bernard of the manner in which he came into is not true. Bernard has always been informed that Salter wanted to bring forth a first baby who passed on and who he had deep love for and regarded him as perfect. The deeping of the conflict is illustrated when it turns out that the real son, Bernard had not died and he goes to confront Salter, his father in the second scene. Salter who has just lost his wife and has a drinking issue made an attempt to bring up Bernard, made horrific failure of the job and put him in care when he was four years only.
One of the most openly poignant moments that brings loneliness in the face of the audience is when Bernard recalls calling his after, Salter in the night: "I'd be shouting, 'Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!' I want to know could you hear me or not.... I didn't dare get out of bed to go and see, because if you weren't there, that would be terrifying, and if you were there, that would be worse."
Salter thinks about his motivations, wondering whether they were aimed at creating a perfect person or erasing his own shortcomings as a parent. Salter also thinks of taking legal action against the devious scientists. The cloned Bernard is shows insecurity and fear, not least twisted and murderous Bernard, the original son. The third clone son also shows up, who turns out to be a totally different person as compared to the expectations of Salter or the audience. Salter continued to remain evasive and suppressed even as his life crashed before him.
The crisis may be seen when Bernard 1 comes back and informs Salter that he had gone after Bernard 2 and killed him. Salter grieves and asks for more information but Bernard 1 refuses to tell him. Bernard 1 goes and kills himself, and Salter is left alone. Salter makes the decision of traveling to meet other clones of his son, beginning with Michael Black showing the downward spiral of all characters. Black did not know Salter and he has a happy family of two children and one yet to be born. Black is not troubled that he was cloned and tells Salter that he did not care. Salter asks Black to give him more detail which is personal about himself, which Black refuses. It is catastrophic as Salter goes away, not satisfied with what Black could offer him and having lost all of his sons.
Salter is the tragic hero. Salter was a husband a father to one son. When Bernard, Salters son was two, Salter’s wife killed herself by jumping under a train. He was capable of raising his son by himself but due to his drinking and the problems his son had, Salter would not look after him and, in the end, sent him away. Salter then cloned Bernard 2, his son as he tried to get a second chance at being a good father. Slater conceals the truth form his sons. This would turn out to be his hamartia, or tragic flaw. He also suffers a lot when his son’s clone kills the original son and kills himself. His efforts to connect with Black the other clone are fruitless and he is very frustrated. The audience pities Salter as he desperately looks for Black, fearing he would be rejected and he actually gets rejected. His drunkenness and inability to bring up his own son shows that he is a normal human being with some flaws. His decision to seek for a second chance to being a good father makes him admirable though it does not end well with his real son and all of the clones.
Bernard 2 is Salters son and is aged 35 and was the intended to be the replacement of the first son, Bernard 1. He shows a lot of emotions and has mild behavior.
Bernard 1 is the original son of Slater. He was hard to deal with and was very troubled and Salter chased him away at the age of four. He grew up to have a bad temper and hated his father Salter for sending him away.
Michael Black was the clone the scientist had made of Salter’s son without authorization. Aged thirty five, Black has a wife and three children and works as a math’s teacher.
A Number employs the use of the word “copy” by the characters. This is particularly used by Bernard B1 who constantly argues with Salter, his father regarding the clones, B2 and Michael Black. The use of this word admonishes the clones. It points out the lack of originality and identity in them. Seemingly, this was the playwright’s intent. To indicate to the audience that clones are more of copies than real people.
There is also a deliberate style used by the playwright in expressing the characters’ feelings and thoughts. Churchill uses more of an argumentative style in presenting the play. This brings out an argument, which attaches itself to the play’s meaning, that cloning bears various consequences and should be carefully approached.
In the first scene, Salter and Bernard B1 can be seen making identical movements using their hands. This prepares the audience for the concept of the reproduction or imitation of some sort. It is also indicative of the route to be taken in the explanation of the biological relationship between a father and his son in terms of their DNA and personalities.
In the casting, one person is chosen to play the characters of the original sons and the clones. This one person plays Bernard B1 at the beginning of the play and then recurrently plays the two clones for the rest of the play. This is crucial in the demonstration of the exactness in relation to the physical appearance of clones compared to their original body. This is part of the main themes of the play. This character in the cast, however, takes the cue to dress differently through the play. He dons jeans and a T-shirt and occasionally wears a sweatshirt. This is quite reflective of the different personalities that are borne by the clones and the original body. All these go back as being existent in the original person, Bernard B1.
In the background, there is a screen that shows a series of images that contain a number of simulations of different things. This is a demonstration of the basic process of reproduction in the form of the division of cells. Also in the background to the right, there are a number of half mannequins hanging from a support. This gives the audience a picture of the process and alludes to the existence of a replica of something in the course of the play. This particular screen is momentary.
During various scenes there is the placement of a light directly above Salter and his sons. This is intended to have the audience pulled in during that particular moment. An example of this is where Salter appears to be making an argument convincing Bernard 2 that he is not a replica. The overall stage, setting, costume and design are simple. There is no complex employment of visual effects. The costumes worn by the characters are also plainly simple and reflective of daily life. The stage is open enough with just two seats and a simple clear background.
Themes and Ideas
The key thematic inclination taken by Churchill in the play, A Number, is that of alienation. Churchill uses this to reveal the essence of the play by use of both modifications in both the form and ideas of the play. She offers the audience the subthemes of identity in the contemporary world, together with the argument pinning nature against the concept of nurturance. Churchill then directs the audience to the rhetoric of whether they can in actuality refer to themselves as individually unique from other people. The play employs the application of cloning effects based on an average two people performance displaying its alienation impact on both the person and their psyche. From the play, Churchill points towards such issues as identity in terms of seriality and uniqueness.
Through its conception of the existence of various personalities, the play offers the audience the aspect of alienation in the sense that it has three physically identical persons, Bernard B1, Bernard B2 and Michael Black, with each person bearing a totally distinct personality. A Number shows the portrait of an individual hosting multiple personalities. This is since, having come from the same person, Bernard B1, it indicates that B1 bears all the personality traits that are displayed Michael Black and Bernard B2. In the final scene of the play, A Number, Michael Black is asked some questions by Salter in trying to understand there are particular similarities are between the honestly positive clone, the inexperienced younger form and his unkind first son. The play offers a precisely substantial argument that nurture is the most crucial element in the determination of the personality traits of people. It is through the individual upbringing and individual experiences that one acquires their individual personalities that are exhibited by them.
The play Medea may be used a justification for the analysis and understanding of the play A Number, above. The tragic hero in Medea may be said to be Jason. This is because after leaving his wife, Medea, he decides to trust her when she claims she is okay with his decision to marry another woman. He accepts the gifts given to him by Medea, not knowing that the gifts are cursed. The catastrophe happens when Jason ends up losing his new wife, the princess, his father in law and sadly, his sons too. Jason is not even allowed to bury his sons. He curses Medea but there is nothing much he can do to punish her. Jason, just like Salter, has nothing left to do than to grief his loss and be sorry that his actions have led to the death of innocent people.