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Monday 19 June 2017

Review: Proof @ Brighton’s New Venture Theatre

In Chicago, 25-year-old Catherine (Marie Ellis) has put her college education on hold to care for a dying father, Robert (Bill Griffiths). Robert was an academic genius, specialising in complex 'beautiful and elegant' mathematical proofs, now suffering from both loss of focus and madness.
Marie Ellis & Bill Griffiths in Proof, directed by Claire Lewis

Following Robert's death, Catherine finds herself doubting her own sanity as she rattles around her father's house. Robert's remaining notebooks are being combed through by eager would-be boyfriend Hal (Robert Purchese); For Robert, Claire and Hal, the clarity and perfection of pure maths is something higher, a music of the spheres. 

When Claire's smug yuppified sister Claire (Bridgett Ane Lawrence) arrives, and begins machinations to try to get Claire to move to New York, questions begin to creep in - does Claire want to protect Catherine from her own incipient madness? Is Hal looking to steal some of Robert"s past genius from his notes?

The play is wonderfully funny, while being poignant and touching - a feeling of aching melancholia runs through the relationships - it is a beautifully constructed piece. 

Scenes of Catherine's immediate past with her father in the second half illuminate what we have seen in the first. This switch between past and present is never gimmicky, and never detracts from the tender relationships between the four characters.

The New Venture Theatre's studio space is used perfectly, the enclosed porch setting could look claustrophobic, but remains warm and open, and the actors make the most of the floor; their conversations never appear static, even when it"s just two of them seated. 

None of the characters fall to cliche; Aubern's dialogue is so natural and well pitched that the two hour running time flies past. 

The plot's turns include a classic jaw-dropping revelation at the end of the first half, and leaves the audience with plenty to think about. It's unfair to single any actor out in what is a sucker-punch of a "4-hander", suffice to say that they all truly excellent.

Director Claire Lewis sums up the production thus - "trust, fear, family, mania, genius, love, validation, sacrifice" - as good a summary as any for this gem of a production.

Proof runs at Brighton's New Venture Theatre until Saturday 24th June. CLICK HERE for more details.

by: Gary Cook



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