Thursday, 23 May 2002

Proof by David Auburn, MTC, May 23, 2002

Proof by David  Auburn   
Melbourne Theatre Company
Playhouse May 23 until June 22, 2002
Reviewer: Kate Herbert



What  a joy when a play touches us so sweetly and profoundly as does Proof by US playwright, David Auburn.

It is superbly written, compellingly performed, cleverly and unobtrusively directed with striking music, design and lighting.

 Rachel Griffiths, as Catherine, is luminous, warm, compelling and so natural it seems inappropriate to call it acting.
Her sympathy is palpable for Catherine who confronts her fear of succumbing to the mental illness that shattered her father's (Frank Gallacher)  brilliant career.

Auburn captures with subtlety and wit the vulnerability of human nature in all its complexity. It is a play about family, mathematics and genius. But more significantly, Proof is a love story.

Catherine loves her dead father, Robert, a mathematical genius and sacrifices her studies to care for him. She falls in love with a mathematician, Hal. (Christopher Gabardi )

But the great and mysterious love affair is with Mathematics. Robert seeks its beauty and complexity. Catherine is driven to study in her father's footsteps while Hal hopes for one great discovery.

The relationship between mental illness, creativity and genius is central. The volatile state of the innovative mind is frighteningly close to madness.

Catherine's grief triggers her own fear of potential madness. At her father's wake she falls for Hal but all goes awry when Hal, scouring Robert's notebooks, finds an exciting maths proof. Catherine loses faith when Hal breaches her trust.

Simon Phillips'  direction is seamless, beautifully paced, and serves perfectly Auburn's stylish, intelligent writing. This play has a startling and satisfying revelation at interval.

Auburn creates totally credible, fallible and idiosyncratic characters. Esoteric mathematical notions become natural dialogue.

Gallacher as Robert finds a cunning manic edge that tilts from dysfunction to inspiration. Gabardi is charming as the cute Maths geek. He even gets laughs out of Maths jokes. As the edgy sister, Belinda McClory finds an elusive sensitivity in such a controlling character.

With the warmth and mystery of Nick Schlieper's   interior lamp lighting we want to leap inside Tony Tripp's  design to walk around in their lives. Ian McDonald's  music reflects the pace of the thinkers on stage.

Some believe naturalism is outdated. When wrought as imaginatively as Proof, it is rivetting.

By Kate Herbert











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