by David Auburn.
Menier Chocolate Factory 53 Southwark Street SE1 1RU To 27 April 2013.
Tue-Sat 8pm no performance 1 April Mat Sat & Sun 3.30pm no performance 24 April.
Runs: 2hr 10min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7378 1713.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 20 March.
Increasingly involving, fascinating play that questions certainty.
Proofs prove nothing; Proof proves that. ‘Proof’ is an intriguing word. The exception that proves the rule challenges the rule. Proof lasts while people believe in it; until the next thing comes along. “God said, ‘Let Newton Be’ and all was light,” declared Alexander Pope, but he never met Einstein. And there are the dark, mini or maxi entities that apparently obey the usual rules, but in reverse. As for Schrödinger’s feline friend, he or she (or possibly both) must have gone schizophrenic ages ago.
‘It’s a mathematical certainty,’ declare people who need to meet mathematicians such as David Auburn’s to learn there’s little certainty and more romance, imagination and supposition than might be imagined or supposed in the art of figures. If anything constitutes proof it’s the holiness of the heart’s affections writ wide. Proof is a matter of belief, and trust. So it is for Hal when revisiting the home of Robert, his late maths professor in Chicago, and for Catherine, the daughter who’s possibly inherited her father’s genius and, she fears, his medical history too.
Helen Goddard’s set catches the shabbiness of the family’s Chicago house, indicating a dignified past in decline. Robert was a prolific maths genius in his early 20s, before long-term senescence set in. At the same age Catherine (her emotional processes sharply delineated by Mariah Gale) might be going the same way. Or the idea might be encouraged by her less intellectual sister for her own prosaic reasons. Catherine’s perceptive enough to read Claire’s motives as she can sometimes those of apparently enamoured Hal (Jamie Parker the smiling, genuine-seeming ex-college boy). What he wants is a career-building scoop from his former tutor’s leavings.
There’s valuable material there, but the authorship is open to question. What evidence is there for the possibilities? And can evidence ever constitute proof (not for nothing do law-courts qualify conviction with ‘beyond reasonable doubt’). Such questions give Auburn’s 2000 play its fascination. And in Polly Findlay’s initially rather deliberate Menier revival, a head of emotional steam builds up to add a human urgency, at least between Catherine and Hal.
Robert: Matthew Marsh.
Catherine: Mariah Gale.
Hal: Jamie Parker.
Claire: Emma Cunniffe.
Director: Polly Findlay.
Designer: Helen Goddard.
Lighting: Paul Anderson.
Sound: Gregory Clarke.
Dialect coach: Richard Ryder.
Movement: Aline David.
Assistant director: Liz Stevenson.