Review: LUTG’s Proof

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Image courtesy of LUTG

Enthusiastic theatregoers purchase their final round of drinks and snacks and make their way into the makeshift auditorium. The lights are still on, the actor appearing to be asleep on a chair on the stage. The lights get dimmed and then go bright again signalling that the show was about to start. Everyone shuffles back into their seats and quietens down.

The actor is still asleep on the chair, building up suspense as to whether or not she had known that the show had already begun. Out comes another actor after what had seemed like quite a while and that’s when you remember, “ah, well, it’s rehearsed, good acting though”.

The play is about a 25-year-old woman, Catherine (played by Hannah Cooper), who lived with her father, Robert (Stef Rasmussen), a mathematician who was a revolutionary in the maths world and made mathematical history, not once, but twice, both before the age of 23. Set in Chicago, the father Catherine is now living with is no longer the man with the agile mind that many had worshipped him for – in his later years, he suffered from a mental illness.

The plot builds as Robert dies and Catherine is left on her own, while her sister Claire (Abbie Jones), who lives in New York, flies in for the funeral. Claire tries to convince her sister to follow her to New York, and then also reveals that she is now engaged to her long-term boyfriend, Mitch. Catherine refuses to leave, with Claire profusely trying to convince her why New York would be good for her to get out and have fun, and also to seek treatment for her depression.

Robert had students, one of which was doctoral student Harold ‘Hal’ Dobbs (Luke McDonnell), who plays an instrumental part in this play as he loiters in Robert’s study trying to find any remnant of mathematical genius that could have perhaps been left behind by the now deceased Robert. The plot is a combination of flashbacks and the present time, which was extremely well put together. The budding romance between Hal and Catherine unravels into something more than just friends on the night of the funeral, but is then completely diminished when Catherine hands Hal a key to a drawer in her father’s study.

The doubt, both from Claire and Hal, leaves Catherine, someone who was suffering from mental illness herself, lost and she resorts to sleeping it off for days while Claire delays her flight back to New York. The entire situation revolves around the proof of Sophie Germain’s safe prime numbers. Hal wanted to find something of Robert so that he could have it published, but the proof is now being claimed by Catherine, who only briefly went to Northwestern University, and whom Hal highly doubts would be able to produce such complex mathematics. Although the draw in which the book was found was locked, and Catherine herself was the one who handed the key to Hal, both Claire and Hal continue to be reluctant to admit to Catherine’s ownership of the journal. Funnily enough, despite Claire being the sister who has no mathematical talent, she is played by Abbie Jones, who has a first-class Masters of Science honours in Mathematics and Statistics herself.

The lighting, the music and the props were all minimal but put a heightened emphasis on the actors.  The emotional tension between the actors was calm but had a very refreshing and tantalizing draw which engulfed the audience, more so with the audience being placed on the stage itself, where actors were within reach of the crowd. The actors, all having adopted American accents, pulled it off very nicely with no awkward stumbles and proved to the audience the professionalism and greatness of their acting capability. Having previously reviewed professional actors in acting academies, I must say that high praise has to be given for the wonderful acting in ‘Proof’.

During the intermission, we interviewed a few guests and recorded their views on the play so far:

“I really loved how the audience is put on the stage and the audience are really into the scene and everyone is acting really well and the story is really interesting”, said Pauli, who has done stage management for several LUTG shows.

“I really like the chemistry between the characters, I think the actors are really acting well together and I like the twist before the break, and it makes you want to come back even more”, said Fran, who has been to many LUTG shows.

“I really like the the attention to detail in the performance”, says Santi, who is starring in the upcoming ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’.

Overall, I would say that the performance was brilliant and the storyline moving. The poster art is amazing too. The only criticism I would say is in the lack of background music as there were some parts which were filled with brief silences which would have been better if filled with sound effects. Other than that, I would say that it was an amazingly directed and produced play. The attention given to the audience was amazing as I have seen very few actors who are never distracted on stage, especially one in which the audience are sat. Kudos to LUTG! A brilliant performance indeed.