본문 바로가기
  • Home

Answering Old Questions by Asking New Ones: A Number as a Continuation of Churchill’s Discourse on Power and Identity

  • Journal of Modern English Drama
  • Abbr : JMBARD
  • 2014, 27(3), pp.397-423
  • Publisher : 한국현대영미드라마학회
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Literature > Contemporary English Drama

Joohee Park 1

1경희대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This paper positions Caryl Churchill’s play “A Number” (2002) as a continuation of the playwright’s exloration of socialist/feminist views through theatre. “A Number” is a story about a father who has his son cloned after he fails to upbring his original child up to satisfaction and the outcomes of that cloning. Rather than being a play about the moral issues of cloning, the story asks questions of identity, originality, power, capital, and nature versus nurture. The play is set in a place and time where people are able to “reproduce” without sexual intercourse but are required to pay a hefty fee for the procedure. Churchill asks whether such newfound freedom actually brings more freedom or more oppression to human beings. Throughout the play, the “offspring” of the father confront their situation one by one, pondering whether one can claim originality or whether they can no longer claim authenticity. Unlike a piece of art, whose technical reproduction often lacks the aura of its original, Churchill seems to argue that genes are less important to original identity than experiences are. The dramaturgy of “A Number” takes a rather extreme departure from Churchill’s earlier and better known plays, as it is set in an ambiguous time and space, and only contains laconic dialogue between four male characters. However, I find “A Number” to be asking the same questions Churchill has asked throughout her repertorie, namely those on power and identity, only through a new appearance. Thus through the absence of the female body on stage, and through the sparse use of language, Churchill is commenting on this new reality in which female bodies are only needed for their uteri and the shortcomings of language as a tool to properly communicate one’s feelings and identities. The absence of stage directions also seem to make room for imagination of directors and actors who may produce the play, thus providing DNA for a play and asking other artists to give it an original identity through their own experiences.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.