Having just reviewed a rather light-hearted and low budget garden play, my first impression of Proof, gazing on the set that dominated the O’Reilly arena with house, veranda and garden, was one of both nervous anticipation and expectation. Whats more a play about maths, mental instability and moaning characters is not typically my type of relaxation. Having been assured the grass was actually real, I relaxed into the seat and let Susanna Quirke’s latest effort in direction lead me astray. Thankfully I was not disappointed.
The first scene set the tone for the whole play with Jared Fortune slipping into the aging Illinois drawl convincingly and balancing the passionate professor well against the forgetful yet loving father. The relationship between Fortune and Millie Chapman, playing Catherine, (no relation of the author it must be noted lest accusations of nepotism blight these words) was electric, most notably so in the second half, when Chapman was required to read out some of the ‘graphomaniac’s’ scribbles. Fortune’s turn from a wild erudite roaming his mind, to a pitiless wreck was crafted superbly and Chapman’s swing from loving excitement to disappointed sadness, during her father’s downfall, was moving to say the least.
Much continued along this vein. Dugald Young played Hal well and his timed humour was a welcome relief to stress caused between father and daughter and the two sisters. Lines such as ‘The proof is hip’ slipped from his tongue as one might expect of a twenty eight year old failing post-grad come drummer, and his reaction to Catherine’s shameless advances lifted some of the emotional burden that the audience felt.
Claire, played by Alice Evans, was used well as a contrast to Catherine, with her talk of dresses and conditioner being in antithesis with her sister’s ignorance of social norms. Evans and Chapman worked well together, heightening the tension especially at the end. The accents that Quirke decided with which to stick helped grate the ears of the audience and barely slipped from any of the actors throughout. One could occasionally see Evans thinking about the next few lines as the others held the audience’s eyes but even so, it was with notable talent that she interacted with the faultless Chapman.
Minor problems occurred with the sound, which was often too loud, and there were a few occurrences of noise over-running the scene change. Production aside, Quirke’s direction of Auburn’s Pulitzer and Tony award winning play was fantastic and following the success of POSH, one can certainly have faith in whatever her next production is. One Wadham fresher noted the irony of the play being produced in Oxford saying ‘I felt that having clever, yet mad people being portrayed was pertinent to this place.’ Without falling ill to Robert’s over affection with the pen myself, I shall cast away in Hal’s line, ‘good funeral’.
FOUR AND A HALF STARS.