Old Vic theatre, London
The powerhouse duo’s effortless chemistry and emotional realism brings Caryl Churchill’s cloning tragedy blazing into new life
‘They’ve taken your cells,” says a father to his son in a near-future dystopia where the latter has been cloned in an apparently unauthorised “batch”. So begins Caryl Churchill’s 2002 play, using the concept of cloning to explore identity, inheritance and what makes us uniquely ourselves, written at a time when ethical debates on Dolly the sheep raged.
Like Polly Findlay’s 2020 revival at the Bridge theatre, it presents the story of a father (Lennie James) and three versions of his son (Paapa Essiedu) as a noirish thriller with shifting realities. Es Devlin’s set is a Scandi style living space soaked in blood-red light. There are stark bursts of white lighting, too, (designed by Tim Lutkin), flashing as if to blind us, while unnervingly quick costume changes by Essiedu really do create the illusion of more than one version of him.