In the early 1980s Bobby, Eddy and David, identical triplets, had fifteen minutes of fame. They were on every US chat show couch and even had a cameo with Madonna in Desperately Seeking Susan.
For 19 years the boys—who had been adopted to different families at six months old—did not know of each other’s existence.
That is, until one of them is mistaken for another during his first day at college.
The first half of this riveting documentary tells the story of the brother’s reunion.
They bond and revel in it, and make money.
They open a steakhouse in New York’s SoHo district and move into a swanky bachelor pad.
The revelry does not last long, though, and questions are asked by the brothers and their parents.
Why were they not told about their siblings by the adoption agency?
Why were they regularly visited by camera crews and researchers during their childhoods?
And why were they placed in families with many similarities, but divided neatly into different social classes?
The film becomes an examination of the nature vs nurture debate.
It is possibly the best examination of the debate in popular culture since the 1983 comedy Trading Places.
For the left this is still an important question.
There is a resurgence of the argument that our behaviour and class are governed by forces outside our control—by genetics and not by our social environments.
This film also poses important questions about research ethics and funding.
New Yorker journalist Lawrence Wright did the groundwork for the documentary. He questions why research on the triplets and others by renowned psychoanalyst Peter Neubauer was never published and why the archive is closed until the 2060s.
“There are a lot of powerful people who would like to have this story silenced,” he argues.
Three Identical Strangers is able to only break some of the silence, but does so very well.
Directed by Tim Wardle. On limited release
Until the Lions
Famed dancer Akram Khan is rumoured to be drawing his career to a close with this work.
Until the Lions returns to London’s Roundhouse for one week following a critically acclaimed tour.
Based on the Sanskrit epic the Mahabharata, this piece takes inspiration from Karthika Nair’s Until the Lions book of poetry.
In it, she fleshes out some of the female characters from the epic.
Khan plays the warrior Bheeshma, who prevents a princess—Amba (Ching-Ying Chien)—from being able to marry.
She then kills herself and is reborn as Shikhandi (Christine Joy Ritter), who then changes gender to face and kill Bheeshma in battle.
Until the Lions uses symbolism and metaphor to make points about gender and identity.
For more information and tickets, go to roundhouse.org.uk