by Mel Lynch
Described in the programme as a ‘fearless and affecting dissection of the relationship between father and son’ The Other Room’s A Number was certainly an intriguing viewing experience. Directed by Ed Madden, I had the chance to see A Number this week.
Having never been to The Other Room theatre I went with no preconceived idea of what to
expect. The theatre is located within Porter’s pub behind a pair of red velvet curtains on the left side of the bar. The actual theatre was very cosy, probably seating 40 at maximum. The Other Room is advertised to be a ‘drinking theatre’, so the audience was encouraged to visit the bar before being lead into the main area, which was a fun concept which helped relax the viewers.
With a cast of two, the production was very intimate. Salter, father of Bernard is played by Brendan Charleston. Previously Charleston has played Lion in OZ, the very first Sherman Theatre production in 1984. His presence on stage was strong, where his quick change of mood when discussing uncomfortable events was almost eerie. This was further emphasised by the corridor width/length of the stage, where the audiences eye line was drawn directly to the performances from Charleson or Raine (playing Brendan). Charleson’s performance left me quite confused at times where at one point we ended up watching his character shine some shoes in near silence for a good five minutes, but perhaps I misinterpreted the meaning.
Raine also gave a strong performance, his impressive body of work in the theatre prior to this production was evident upon watching his delivery. His seamless change in demeanour when switching between characters was executed well, which was essential due to the small size of the cast. The on-stage relationship of father and son worked effectively for the most part and the actors played off each other’s energy well. However, in all honesty, the actual narrative was quite hard to follow, despite the cast size the dialogue was quick paced with little context of what they were discussing for the initial 20 minutes. On multiple occasions I struggled to follow the events taking place and was still left perplexed at the end of the show. For a student viewer I would say that arguably the show isn’t the most accessible, full concentration was needed at all times and even then, I still wasn’t 100% sure I was grasping the deeper meaning.
Nevertheless, as a venue, The Other Room has an electric theatrical atmosphere and I’d personally be very open to seeing another production there. With regards to A Number, I can’t say I’d be inclined to see it again any time soon, but I’d be very intrigued by the work of Charleson and Raine in other performances.