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A Number

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  733 ratings  ·  47 reviews
Caryl Churchill, hailed by Tony Kushner as "the greatest living English language playwright," has turned her extraordinary dramatic gifts to the subject of human cloning—how might a man feel to discover that he is only one in a number of identical copies. And which one of him is the original. . . ?

“Churchill’s harrowing bioethics fable leaves us with a number of things to
Paperback, 64 pages
Published May 1st 2003 by Theatre Communications Group (first published 2002)
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3.72  · 
Rating details
 ·  733 ratings  ·  47 reviews

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Nick Pappas
Sep 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: plays
I have this love / hate affair with Churchill. She's so good, and so uninviting. See her plays, never read them. If you can't see them, read them like I do. but be patient.
Alisa Cupcakeland
Nov 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It keeps you engaged not only with the plot but also with it possibilities and challenges for performing it.
Manik Sukoco
Jul 09, 2015 rated it liked it
On a routine visit to hospital, Bernard receives some shocking news: he's been cloned. When he confronts his father, he finds out it's worse: he is just one in an unknown number of genetically identical sons. But is Bernard the original or a copy? Does it matter? And what's going to happen when two other versions come knocking at the door? "A Number" takes the ethical labyrinth of genetic engineering, and the timeless debate over nature versus nurture, and reconstitutes them as a bracing family ...more
Apr 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Churchill, once again, succeeds in condensing huge themes into a blinding 60-odd page play. A two-hander that has more than two hands. On the subject of cloning, Churchill explores identity in the modern world, via nature vs. nurture and whether we can really call ourselves unique. A little slice of genius.
Meghan Barrett
Sep 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
The original review, with pictures of my adorable cat, can be found over at!

This week on 'Bee' Reviewed is one of the more unique plays that I've come across, A Number by Caryl Churchill published in 2002. The play was produced around the time of the Dolly sheep cloning experiment and clearly is impacted by the ethical, moral, legal, etc. complications that cloning poses to our society.

Salter, an aging father, meets with three of his sons (two clones, one not) throughout the c
Meghan Barrett
Find the original review at:

This week on 'Bee' Reviewed is one of the more unique plays that I've come across, A Number by Caryl Churchill published in 2002. The play was produced around the time of the Dolly sheep cloning experiment and clearly is impacted by the ethical, moral, legal, etc. complications that cloning poses to our society.

Salter, an aging father, meets with three of his sons (two clones, one not) throughout the course of the play; he spends some of the
Mar 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was a good play but the cloning was just a convenient plot device; it didn't add anything except making the set of relationships possible. That said, the relationship(s) between Salter and his son(s) were fascinating and well done and I would love to see this staged.
Nick Jones
May 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
I don’t know Caryl Churchill’s work so I can’t put A Number into any authorial context. It’s a short play – apparently about an hour in performance – and is mostly short snappy dialogue with the occasional longer speech. At first it reminded me of Pinter (but I’m reading a lot of Pinter at the moment and a lot of post-1960 British drama reminds me of Pinter), but it has its own rhythms. A lot of the sentences are left hanging, the characters seemingly uncertain how to finish any of their ideas. ...more
Jan 27, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommended to Kari by: Cari
Shelves: drama
I enjoyed this play, but once again post-modern literature/drama is not my strongest point.

I liked that Churchill opted to wrestle with the idea of human cloning and what that means in respect to people and their ability to understand. A Number is a two man play, and a story about a father and his sons. I am using the term sons, which is of course debated during the play. Are these "sons" really his sons or are they less his sons because they are clones? Does the man only have one son? If so th
Josh Ang
Jun 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
A haunting play that delves deep into a father-son relationship, except that it isn’t quite what you think it is, because there is the father, Salter, in his sixties, and Bernard (B1), his son, forty, and Bernard (B2), his son, thirty-five, and yet another son Michael Black, also thirty-five.

It’s difficult not to give the plot of this very bare but harrowing play away, as Salter talks to each of them in alternating scenes, with inconsistent revisions about the past, as each ‘son’ tries to uncove
Oct 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: play-n-poetry
A chilling and forceful play that has accomplished much more than expected, when you consider its brevity (~40 pages) and format (a two-men play). A man in his sixties is talking to his outraged adult son, only this father is always giving a different story and his son is outraged for there are clones of himself. Shifting between talking with the original and one of the clones, these plain (and sometimes, grating) father-and-son dialogues touch on the conditions of identity, the compromise of fa ...more
K.M. Soehnlein
May 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
I'd seen this performed a couple years ago but never read it on the page. I was really taken with the style of the script -- mostly unpunctuated, meant to mimic the halting, interruptive rhythms of speech. Felt a bit like reading Beckett or Joyce, but in a more accessible style.

This is highly conceptual stuff: What might the emotional and psychological impact on a father-son relationship if a son discovered his father had cloned him? If a father learned that there were more clones of his son tha
Feb 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: plays
This play was absolutely fantastic. Not only was the concept interesting, but because of the structure, so much of the play is up to personal interpretation. There is no direction from the Churchill on how she intended the play to be read/presented, considering the lack of punctuation, lack of stage directions, and cutting sentences short during conversation (do the characters interrupt each other or finish each other's sentences...?). The play brings up many questions about self and identity, n ...more
Christopher Stevenson
May 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Clever and frightening. I think many people would probably find the play boring, but it strikes at the heart of identity. The play is about cloning, but it goes somewhere deeper, into a place where questions about self-identity, and what it means to be an individual--let alone a human being--lurk. If you like drama that is also philosophical, then pick this one up. If you like science fiction that tends to take place in the near future, then give this one a try. "A Number," is somewhere near Bec ...more
Sep 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating play!

This play was amazing and fascinating to read. Going into this for the 2nd time around the play was a lot less confusing and much easier to get an understanding of all of the characters. The play is unique in itself since it reads like a novel and it goes into the themes of finding yourself and even more having that ownership of self and identifying what makes you unique. A number is amazing since Churchill is able to combine theater and science into one while conveying a poetic
Nov 25, 2018 rated it really liked it

I liked the themes of this play. Not only the ethical issues of human cloning and all the debates and questions it raises like that of nature vs nurture, but also the grief and the underlying tension that there's something not quite right about Salter that the audience isn't privy to... is it just heavy melancholia or something more?
Also, I appreciate the fact that, I would say all, the characters are unreliable.
And the fact that the sons are all played by the same actor.
Dec 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
a Number is a 2002 play by English playwright Caryl Churchill which addresses the subject of human cloning and identity, especially nature versus nurture. The story, set in the near future, is structured around the conflict between a father (Salter) and his sons (Bernard 1, Bernard 2, and Michael Black) - two of which are clones of the first - when they are 35 and 40 years old.

Excellent and well worth reading or viewing.
Jan 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: drama
I was lucky enough to see the New York premiere of "A Number" with Sam Shepard (great) and Dallas Roberts (not so great) in 2004 yet what I'd forgotten over the years is what a bleakly complex story Churchill weaves here as the play isn't simply about a father and his cloned son but also the lies one generation tells the next, the elusiveness of and craving for individuality, and oddly enough, the optimism that comes with embracing the future, foils and all.
Tammy Linsell
Feb 05, 2015 rated it it was ok
Have had to read this for my course. I've found it hard going, but then I said that about Hamlet when I first studied it for A level, on the day of my exam it was my best paper! This is fast paced and very short, I think I need to read it a couple times more. I would like to see or hear it performed.
Terry Coniglio
Aug 28, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: recentreads
I read this last night. It wasn't as good as I was expecting. Some very interesting topics posed in the play and some great points of view. I particularly loved the character development I saw from the father character. But over all didn't really change my life, but I'd like to see it in a black box setting.
Jan 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: plays
Oh my god, what if someone did this to me? Fantastic play. I love Churchill's later work-- she really seems to hit her stride deconstructing language down to the barest bones. Good character development-- and wonderfully chilling when performed.
Dec 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2015, play
I happy to be reading plays again. There is a lot being written that is very good. This is a play for two actors. One mid sixties. One thirty five. Simple set. It is about cloning and the complexity derived therefrom.
Jun 26, 2017 rated it it was ok
Part of me realizes there is probably something deeply brilliant going on here. But the majority of me is baffled by the halting dialogue and the seeming lack of purpose behind speaking styles. It feels like a gimmick. Not an enjoyable or, more importantly, an enlightening read.
Henry Fosdike
Feb 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
A lot of interesting ideas and still getting used to the Caryl Churchill approach to punctuation (or lack thereof) but it shows how less is more. A really fascinating idea explored in a unique way. Loved the character introduced near the end.
Caileigh Grant
Sep 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
It's one of those plays that has to stew in your brain for a while before you can really understand it.

months later: I've decided that it is more a play of selfishness than the ethics of cloning. Sure that bit is in there but I think it's more about Salter's selfishness.
Mar 19, 2017 rated it did not like it
What The F*ck
*** 3.5 stars ***
Aug 23, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: plays
Interesting idea but not explored deep enough. Needed more monologues to explain the inner turmoil of the father and his "sons".
Nov 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Number by Caryl Churchill was a nice read, but slightly strange. I'd like to see the play on stage one day.
Mar 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
A number inspires the curiosity within the world of cloning. I certainly found it an odd read, but to analyse this book is very good.
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Caryl Churchill (born 3 September 1938) is an English dramatist known for her use of non-naturalistic techniques and feminist themes, dramatisation of the abuses of power, and exploration of sexual politics.[1] She is acknowledged as a major playwright in the English language and one of world theatre's most influential writers.

Her early work developed Bertolt Brecht's modernist dramatic and theatr
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“Or maybe there was no one there at all and you'd gone out so no matter how hard I shouted there was no one there.” 0 likes
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