Venue: New Theatre (Newtown NSW), Jul 14 – 30, 2016
Playwright: David Auburn
Director: Derek Walker
Cast: Alex Brown, Julia Christensen, Peter Flett, Ylaria Rogers
Image by Michael Snow
Catherine has not lived up to her considerable potential as a mathematics prodigy because of sacrifices that have had to be made for her family. Also, her talents are constantly being underestimated and undermined in the patriarchal worlds of academia and maths, who insist on perceiving her as an insignificant shadow of her genius father. David Auburn’s Proof does not explore sufficiently the sexism experienced by his protagonist, even introducing a male love interest to help Catherine realise her dreams, but the narrative is nonetheless a fascinating one, with twists and turns that ensure a gripping experience.
Derek Walker’s direction of the piece brings a good amount of tension for drama to take hold, and although enjoyable for most of the duration, a stricter hand over actors’ choices would give the show a better sense of polish. Playing Catherine is Ylaria Rogers, a dynamic performer who delivers each scene with a thoughtful diligence, but there are inconsistencies in her interpretation that make her character feel slightly distant. Alex Brown leaves a strong impression as Hal, charming and authentic, with a natural sense of timing that serves to make his role effortlessly convincing. Also memorable is Jeremy Allen’s set design, beautiful in its rustic realism, and bold in the way it dominates and transforms space.
It is an entertaining production that will satisfy audiences who want a good story. Proof has got tragedy, comedy and a lot of intrigue, but the moral of its tale is uncertain. This show does not have a strong message that it wishes to advocate, leaving us instead to absorb what we can from its staging of a very popular play. Making theatre is essentially political. It involves strangers talking to each other. The artistic act in today’s pragmatic economies is by nature one of subversion, even if the work itself is polite to the degree of being nondescript. As long as artists remain dedicated, as they appear to be here, there is hope for the world.