REVIEW: A Number at Nuffield Theatre, Southampton

Lex and John Shrapnel create an atmosphere of hysteria.
Lex and John Shrapnel create an atmosphere of hysteria.
Picture: Shutterstock

REVIEW: Beauty and The Beast at Ashcroft Arts Centre, Fareham

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At just over an hour, Caryl Churchill’s play has a short fuse – and this production strikes the match.

Issues of identity, family and the nature/nurture debate are reflected in Salter (John Shrapnel), his son Bernard and the latter’s clones – all played by John’s real-life son Lex Shrapnel.

This is an example of scene changes at their best – they aren’t just functional, they’re thought-provoking

And when I say reflected, I mean it: the action is set in a one-way glass box, to great effect. During the tense exchanges between Salter and his sons, doppelgangers of the two actors stalk the mirrored walls, which suddenly ‘invert’ to throw up the audience’s reflection in the glass.

This is an example of scene changes at their best – they aren’t just functional, they’re thought-provoking. We jumped at our own reflections, much like Bernard with his clones, and were forced to look at ourselves – literally and symbolically.

At first, I thought this was a production of style over substance after some wooden acting from Lex as the chronically anxious Bernard 2. But when he morphed into the psychotic original Bernard, it became clear he wasn’t wooden – he was robotic.

Below the emotion, Lex’s clinical delivery adds to the discussion of what is human at the centre of this play.

If you want a night of easy-viewing, this isn’t it – but if you want to take a good, long look at yourself, go and see what’s in the mirror box.

Until August 29.