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Proof by David Auburn

This is compelling stuff. What is the dividing line between genius and madness? An exploration of the complicated relationship between a father and daughter;

Published on October 18th 2005.

Proof by David Auburn

This is compelling stuff. What is the dividing line between genius and madness? An exploration of the complicated relationship between a father and daughter; a dissection of sisters dealing with their own take on events, in totally different ways. From the outset one is faced with human dilemmas which grip and involve one in a profound way. The incisive writing helps make for a riveting evening of theatre.

Nothing is quite as it seems. The nuances of the story surprise and entrap the playgoer. One can offer no greater compliment to the actors and director, other than to say that it takes the descent of the interval curtain to remind us we are watching and not participating in this thought provoking night, from a suitable hideaway on the back porch of the house in Chicago.

Four actors, the brilliant / mad mathematician, his two daughters and a student of limited mathematical talent (he only has a PhD) explore human relationships and so much else for over two hours. It is often witty, touching and troublesome. It is a play not about science, but about humanity. In the end all this effort to find it fail. The four parties force us to examine both our own and their motives and solutions. It is a demanding intellectual experience helped considerably by this lucid, articulate play. It is well trodden ground.

Emma Pike is a quite exceptional ‘Catherine’. She is the heart and soul of everything that happens. Fetching, vulnerable, caring and totally believable. She involves us all in her struggle to find the way ahead. A performance of a lifetime.

She has admirable support from Paul Webster as ‘Robert’, her father the tortured genius ,loving ,infuriating and difficult man ; Fiona Battisby as her sister ‘Claire’, an officious but well meaning New Yorker and Mark McCallum as an earnest but geeky researcher looking for ‘proof’.

How these individuals complement and supplement each other and, in the end, fail each other is beautifully played out.

Director Robin Herford has ensured that all these different strands come together in a stimulating, ultimately depressing and coherent way. He handles big issues with sensitivity and understanding. His direction is superb.

‘Proof’ was awarded the 2001 ‘Tony Award’, the 2001 ‘Pulitzer Prize’ for drama and is just about to be released as a movie starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Anthony Hopkins. This production is the British Regional Premiere and is unlikely to be bettered.

A last word. I am not an employee or commission agent for the Oldham Coliseum but this season goes from strength to strength. No serious playgoer should let the opportunity to see this play pass.

Richard Burbage

until the 29th October 2005
Oldham Coliseum Theatre
Box Office 0161 624 2829

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