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Jess Gough - A Number Interview

Red Brick Theatre would like to announce their latest production A Number by Caryl Churchill. A fascinating mediation on human cloning, identity and the nature versus nurture debate at Manchester’s 53two from May 22nd - 24th 2024 including a captioned performance on May 23rd.

Bernard thought he was an only child. One day he learns the shocking truth: he is just one of a number of clones. Together, he and his father confront epic questions and family dishonesty to uncover a Black Mirror-esque reality.

Red Brick Theatre present a thought provoking new production of Caryl Churchill’s (Far Away, Top Girls, Cloud 9) A Number. This powerfully devastating revival will be directed by Jess Gough (Interesting; Her Productions, Take Back our Futures; Take Back Theatre, Pornography; Red Brick Theatre.)

Red Brick Theatre welcome Joe Simpson (Happy Valley; Red Productions, Coronation Street; ITV, Blindspot; Channel 5) as Salter and Tom Ryder (The Bay; ITV, The Tremors; HER Productions, Pool (No Water); Royal Court - Jerwood Upstairs) as B1, B2 and Micahel Black.

Ahead of the production running in Manchester we caught up with director Jess Gough to learn more.

What is your preparation and process like ahead of the production? 
The most important thing for me throughout the process is the willingness to play. Nothing stays the same and I want that to be reflected in the work. We prepare the actors to be on their toes and constantly receiving what's in front of them. Because of this, I'm a big fan of Meisner. We revisit his exercises often and use them to ground us in the present. The preparation is play!

What attracted you to this piece? 
This story demands your attention, its length allows the audience to give in to being fully immersed because they're not going to be sat down for an hour and a half at a time. This play is just as relevant as it was in 2001. We're an age interlinked through online community. We get to choose who we are and what we show the world, so naturally we begin to question identity and what makes us who we are. Churchills writing is timeless and rich, her themes are specific and her use (or lack of) stage directions and grammar means there's huge opportunity to explore. She's one of the best playwrights of our time and I'm grateful to be able to stage her work.

What research (if any) do you do in preparation for the production?
I'm a very visual learner and that translates into my work.  I've got a huge Pinterest Board filled with colour schemes and images that I revisit to bring me back to the world this play exists in for me, pulling inspiration from books, films, TV series and plays. I've listened to Podcasts about the scientific process of cloning and its history. I also listened to and read personal experiences about the moral and social side of cloning. It's important to have stories and experiences to refer back to, it grounds the story. I don't think the research ever stops.

If you were a biscuit, what would you be and why?
Initially I was going to say Oat and Raisin. But I just asked the cast and they all said I'd be something a bit more wacky and colourful. We came to the collective decision that I would be a Smarties Cookie. 

What do you hope an audience member takes away from 'A Number'?
When the house lights go up after the show I want them to breathe! I hope they realise they've been holding their breath. I want to evoke conversation, I hope that audiences walk away with different opinions and perspectives on the story, because that sparks discussion and keeps it alive. I want them to feel excitement from the experience, and if it encourages/inspires artists to create work, that's even better.

A Number runs at Manchester’s 53two from May 22nd - 24th 2024. Tickets are available from

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