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A number

A number

Caryl Churchill


“A number” confirms Churchill’s status as the first dramatist of the 21st century. On the face of it, it is about human cloning… Like all Churchill’s best plays, “A number” deals with both the essentials and the extremities of human experience… The questions this brilliant, harrowing play asks are almost unanswerable, which is why they must be asked.” (The Sunday Times)

Nick Hern Books


Caryl Churchill 

One of the most influential and significant contemporary British dramatists, Caryl Churchill was born on September 3rd 1938, in London, and grew up in the Lake District area of Montreal, Canada, after having moved there when she was ten.


She graduated from Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, with a BA degree in English Literature. Her first play “Downstairs” was written while she was still at university, and was first staged in 1958, winning an award at the Sunday Times National Union of Students Drama Festival. She wrote a number of plays for BBC radio, including “The Ants” (1962), “Lovesick” (1967) and “Abortive” (1971). “The Judge’s Wife” was televised by the BBC in 1972 and “Owners”, her first professional stage production, premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in London in the same year.


She was Resident Dramatist at the Royal Court (1974-5) and spent much of the 1970’s and 1980’s working with the theatre groups ‘Joint Stock’ and ‘Monstrous Regiment’. Her work during this period includes “Light Shining in Buckinghamshire” (1976), “Cloud Nine” (1979), “Fen” (1983) and “A Mouthful of Birds” (1986), written with David Lan. “Three More Sleepless Nights” was first produced at Soho Poly, London, in 1980.


“Top Girls” (1982) brings together five historical female characters at a dinner party in a London restaurant given by Marlene, the new managing director of ‘Top Girls’ employment agency. The play was first staged at the Royal Court in 1982, directed by Max Stafford-Clark, and transferred to Joseph Papp’s Public Theatre in New York later that year. “Serious Money” was first produced at Royal Court in 1987 and won the Evening Standard Award for Best Comedy of the Year and the Laurence Olivier/BBC Award for Best New Play. More recent plays include “Mad Forest” (1990), written after a visit to Romania, and “The Skriker” (1994). Her plays for television include “The After Dinner Joke” (1978) and “Crimes” (1982). “Far Away” premiered at the Royal Court in 2000, directed by Stephen Daldry. She has also published a new translation of Seneca’s “Thyestes” (2001), and “A Number” (2002), which addresses the subject of human cloning. Her version of August Strindberg’s “A Dream Play” (2005) premiered at the National Theatre in 2005. Her plays since then have included “Seven Jewish Children – a play for Gaza” (2009), “Love and Information” (2012), “Ding Dong the Wicked” (2013), “Here We Go” (2015) and “Escaped Alone” (2016), and “Glass. Kill. Bluebeard. Imp.” (2019), a quartet of plays to be performed together.


With over 30 plays, and an additional considerable number of adaptations and translations, Churchill has helped redefine the theatrical landscape, and is still producing brave new pieces today.

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