Proof at the Menier Chocolate Factory

David Auburn’s Pulitzer and Tony-winning 2000 drama Proof is being performed at the Menier Chocolate Factory. Director Polly Findlay is directing the drama about a daughter’s attempt to unlock the life and work of her mentally ill mathematician father, Robert who is a one-time maths genius but now he is suffering from an unspecified, sporadic madness and general mental decline, after his skills peaked at the age of 25. Mariah Gale and Jamie Parker play the lead roles in this drama that will be enacted this spring. The daughter Catherine is played by Mariah Gale and Jamie Parker plays the role of her father’s former student Hal. Emma Cunniffe and Matthew Marsh also feature in the play that has been designed by Helen Goddard and Paul Anderson has arranged the lighting.

The story revolves around Catherine who is also very gifted at maths, but gave up a place at college to care for her father Robert, a renowned mathematician for the past five years looking after him full-time during his mental illness. Hal finds a ground-breaking proof in Robert’s office about some brilliant work that that he had done. However, it is not clear as to whether who is the real author of the work and Catherine starts to work on solving this mystery. The play also comes up with the most perplexing problem which tries to find out about how much of Robert’s madness or genius has she inherited? The set is the back garden of their dilapidated home in Chicago, all crumbling wood and decaying plants.

The play is full of math-geek jokes which are often told with the distant intriguing gaze of people who are good at maths. The story is basically a sad tale with only a few occasions of lightness. Gale is shown to be crying most of the time but this crying, though moving, offers little variety. Her first smile appears only in the latter part of the second half, just after she gets laid. Her dry wit and depressive outlook, however, gets overshadowed by her sister Claire’s overbearing fussiness that is convincingly played by Emma Cunliffe.

The script of the play is not thorough and its shortcomings are not covered up by the direction of Polly Findlay. In the initial stages, there were doubts regarding whether Catherine was also suffering from the same vague malady as her father, but this aspect is completely neglected thereafter. The story could have been more intriguing without the several plot gaps if emphasis had been laid on whether she tried to pass off her father’s work as her own instead of the need for proof and certainty rules.

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