We round up the reviews for the Old Vic Theatre’s revival of Caryl Churchill’s play.

(c)Manuel Harlan

The Guardian: ***** “Despite the darkness, James and Essiedu bring a surprising but genuine humour to their deliveries and sound as if they are in a Beckettian sitcom at times. They are simply scintillating to watch, effortless in their chemistry, syncopated in their dialogue, energising the action so it feels alive with anger, mystery and tragedy. This is a masterclass on how a revival can come blazing to new life in the right hands.”

Hampstead & Highgate Express: **** “Essiedu and James masterfully deliver Churchill’s densely-packed, elliptical exchanges with emotional realism and even humour, throwing up ideas about individuality and uniqueness.”

London Theatre.co.uk: **** “Lyndsey Turner’s well-paced production honours the philosophical and science fiction elements of Churchill’s play while simultaneously exploring more grounded ideas, like the inheritance of trauma and mental illness, the legacy of addiction, the influence that a parent has over a child – and vice versa – and the still resonant question of how we define our identity. Is it really as superficial as being tidy or messy, liking or not liking dogs?”

iNews: **** “It’s dazzling and disturbing theatre, a wrenchingly heartfelt take on a modern masterpiece.”

Time Out: **** “Turner’s taut production keeps things minimal, with Es Devlin’s box set an apartment painted entirely in a monochromatic, womb-like red, the only point of difference a photo of a schoolboy (presumably Bernard 1, though it remains somewhat ambiguous). Startling quick changes of Essiedu’s clothes and dissonant strings music delineate the scenes. But it’s ultimately unshowy and stark, an epic tale of a father’s horrifying failure compressed into a single hour, dense and dangerous as dark matter.”

Evening Standard: **** “Lyndsey Turner’s production contains some harsh laughs and exerts a chilly and slowly closing grip, helped by Es Devlin’s boxed-in set – an ordinary, airy flat given an angry red wash.”

WhatsOnStage: ***** “By pulling the family dynamics to the fore, Turner lets the big themes that power the play speak even more powerfully. This is above all a work about what defines an individual being, about the balance between the moral choices we make and our DNA.”

The Telegraph: *** “Lennie James and Paapa Essiedu star in this fresh but underpowered new staging of Caryl Churchill’s super-clever 2002 play.”

The Arts Desk: **** ” left the theatre punchdrunk with admiration at the embrace of human mystery that is this writer’s ongoing theme and eager to return to its fearless fold as often as any playhouse chooses to plumb A Number‘s countless depths once more.”

Culture Whisper: **** “James and Essiedu’s performances cut through this though and, in the final scene, where nature versus nurture is explored and the play’s gut-punching message hits home, watching Salter scan Michael in a desperate attempt to find resemblance is shattering.”

The Reviews Hub: ***** “Past and future stagings of A Number are like Bernard/Bernard 2/Michael Black: cut from the same source, but very different depending on how they are brought to life. And as a number of A Number productions go, this Old Vic production is the best and brightest sibling by far.”

Broadway World: ***** “this is a memorable, multi-layered revival that lingers long after the curtain call. A profound, provocative production, which breathes new life into a modern classic.”

There Ought to be Clowns: “Essiedu has the more overtly dramatic role in portraying the clones, so much the same yet so difference and he essays this beautifully, aided by some astonishing quick changes in the blinding flashes of Tim Lutkin’s lighting. But James also does phenomenal work as the slippery Salter, possessing just as many personas as there are clones, if not more. They both master the intricate rhythms of Churchill’s dialogue and find a good deal more humour in there than I’ve seen before.”

The Stage: **** “Paapa Essiedu and Lennie James excel in Caryl Churchill’s layered, endlessly questioning play.”

The Times: ***”Caryl Churchill’s enigmatic play about cloning, which was first staged two decades ago, is the theatrical equivalent of a Möbius strip. The staccato dialogue twists and turns; half-finished sentences seem to lead in one direction, then change course or disappear. “

A Number continues to play at the Old Vic Theatre until the 19th of March.