Theater News Online
free issue
London Theatre Reviews
NY Theater Reviews
LTN Recommendations
NYTN Recommendations
Book Reviews
Movie Reviews
London Theatre Archives
NY Theater Archives
Latest New York News
Latest London News
NY News Archives
London News Archives
Peter Filichia's Monday Quiz
Dining and Travel
London Theatre Listings
NY Broadway Listings
Off-Broadway Listings
London Tickets
Advertise with us

Subscribe
Renew
Give a Gift


Logo

Adagio Teas
   Features  >  London Theatre Reviews

 
PROOF
at Menier Chocolate Factory

ROOM FOR DOUBT
By CLAIRE ALLFREE

  Ph: Nobby Clark

There are many definitions of the word "proof" in David Aubern’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play. There’s the groundbreaking mathematical proof whose authorship is disputed. Was it written by Catherine’s once brilliant mathematician father in a rare moment of lucidity in the months before he died? Or, as she herself claims, by Catherine, who has inherited her father’s aptitude for math? What about truth and faith – why do Catherine’s skeptical sister and new boyfriend refuse to believe her when she says she wrote the proof herself? Why aren’t her words proof enough? And then there is our own response to Catherine: We perhaps can’t help but want proof that this precocious young woman is not the psychologically unstable daughter destined to live in the shadow of a once brilliant man but a woman capable of standing on her own two, perhaps equally brilliant feet.
 
It is brave of Mariah Gale to take on a part last performed in the West End, to enormous acclaim, by Gwyneth Paltrow. Brave, too, of director Polly Findlay to revive a play whose merits were perhaps confused with its starry casting during its 2002 U.K. premiere at London’s Donmar Warehouse. Here, and with apologies for the obvious mathematical analogy, Proof comes across as rather less than the sum of its parts. It’s predominately – and perhaps in the end exclusively – interested in being a who-wrote-it sort of play. Aubern has barely any interest in the contents of the proof itself (if it’s as groundbreaking as the play demands we think it is, even the most innumerate audience member would surely like a detail or two on just how it revolutionises mathematical thinking). He has almost nothing to say about what it means to experience the universe through numbers or to have a creative understanding of the world that exceeds that of mere mortals (it is unfortunate that Proof coincides with Marianne Elliott’s West End production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which beautifully translates a 15-year-old math genius’s emotional perception of the infinite numerological wonders of the cosmos). He is admittedly interested in how a rare understanding of math can alienate you from grasping how the normal world works, but his treatment of this is ultimately sentimental.
 
Still, Findlay’s production, set in the garden of the dilapidated Chicago house Catherine once shared with her father, is taut, witty and attuned to the psychological sharpness of Aubern’s script. Gale is extremely good as the petulant, highly gifted, depressive Catherine – clearly a nightmare to live with in the way self-absorbed, hugely talented people often are. Sulky, rude, contemptuous, vulnerable, depressive and visibly plagued by the fear that she might have inherited her father’s propensity for madness, she is a loose canon on stage, flicking between vituperative sarcasm towards her hen-pecking sister, depressed neutrality and radiant enthusiasm. What she doesn’t ever do, however, is give sufficient credibility to the idea that her claims of authorship are a catastrophic delusion – perhaps because the play doesn’t either.
 
Jamie Parker offers wholesome foil as the charismatic Hal, a former disciple of Catherine’s father and an unlikely blend of self-confessed math geek and wannabe rock musician, although his real intentions regarding the proof are frustratingly obscured. Emma Cunliffe is also extremely good in the thankless role as Claire, Catherine’s clumsy, mumsy elder sister, who has just enough understanding of math to know the limits of her understanding, and has had to live with the knowledge that when it came to sharing out the family DNA, she got the raw deal. Aubern may have started out writing a multi-layered teaser, but he ends up crossing his "t"s, dotting his "i"s and removing any room for narrative and psychological uncertainty. Rather than write a play about proof, you rather wish he’d opted for one about doubt.

 


SUBSCRIBE TO New York Theater News
SUBSCRIBE TO London Theater News

SCHEDULE UPDATES -
Yes, Prime Minister contracts its run, while A Chorus Line expands its own.
POWERHOUSE OF THEATRE - After 11 years as the Almeida Theatre's artistic director, Michael Attenborough is stepping down to focus on directing. 

SONGS FROM THE HEART - Once the Tony-Award winning musical is set to hit London in January.


Wine, Fruit, and Gourmet Gift Baskets.
Privacy Notice   |   Front Page
Copyright © TheaterNewsOnline.com. All Rights Reserved.