A father, in his sixties, talks with his son, who is thirty-five. The son has just discovered that the hospital where he was delivered used his embryo cells to create a clone of him, or was it an indeterminate number of clones? What should he and his father do? Sue?
The father, in his sixties, talks to his son, who is forty. They talk about the discovery made by his son, the same son, aged thirty-five. His son, forty, is indignant that his father sent him away and allowed the hospital to create a copy of him "from some bit of my body some" The father interjects "it didn`t hurt you" "what bit," the son asks. "I don't know what" "not a limb, they clearly didn't take a limb like a starfish and grow" "a speck" "or half of me chopped through like a worm and grow the other" "a scraping cells a speck a speck" "a speck yes because we're talking about that microscope world of giant blobs and globs" "that's all" "and they take this painless scrape little cells of me and kept that and you threw away the rest of me away" "no" "and had a new one made" "no" "yes" "yes" "yes" yes" We have entered a world of Beckett-like discourse but it's about a resolutely modern topic, and the dialogue is more focused than in Beckett's poem-plays.
Toward the end of this scene in Churchill's play, son #1 asks his father, "Do you recognize me now?" That's what the play is about. How much of living is a matter of pure genetics, the genes we have inherited? How much is our nurture? What are we ultimately, our genes or our growing up? The picture is complicated further when son #3, also thirty-five, enters. (All three sons are played by the same actor.) Horrible things have happened to son #1 and son #2, but as son#3 says, ""There are nineteen more of us." This provoking play is about what constitutes identity, where does it come from, and how do we as parents identify and relate to our children. There's almost no action in the whole play, only dialogue, but the dialogue is so brilliant it really doesn't need action. The play was first produced in London, at the Royal Court Theatre, in 2002, with Michael Gambon and Daniel Craig as actors, which tells you something about the quality of the play by itself.