Director Amy Lawler has led an impressive cast of four talented actors in David Auburn’s ‘Proof’ the 2001 Tony award winning play. This show is full of clever dialogue, complicated character relationships and poignant moments which this production handles with well-rehearsed professionalism and heart. It is not hard to see the evident love and care that has been put into all aspects of this production, which takes the audience through the relationships of Catherine and her deceased, mathematical Genius father, Robert, her budding romance with former student of Robert, Harold ‘Hal’ Dobbs and her absent, jilted sister Claire.
Upon walking into the theatre, eyes are immediately drawn to the impressive back porch of Robert’s run-down, Chicago home. Designed by Luke Wallyn, this scenic piece really helps convey the themes of the show, something once grand and full of promise, but now slowly rotting away. It’s the little details that have been so carefully added like water-stains under the windows and mould on the slats that really elevate it from a simple set to a story telling device.
The true highlight of this piece of theatre though is the interplay of relationships between the cast of four. Each of these characters has their own motives, traumas and emotional baggage which is portrayed simply and effectively allowing the audience to really connect to David Auburn’s clever language and be taken on this journey.
Jonathan Lim as Harold Dobbs or Hal as he’s affectionately known has a naturally lovely boy next door vibe to him. He encapsulates the passionate, nerdy mathematician in a way that draws the audience in. The relationship that grows between him and Catherine through act 1 is effortless and believable which plays a nice contrast to his character in act 2 as he juggles his feelings for Catherine and his cynicism over her claims.
Tahlia Crinis plays the role of distanced older sister, Claire, with a beautiful arrogance. She performs with a sickeningly sweet-manufactured facade of care, which allows the pain of every scornful comment levelled at her to flash across her face before it is pushed down with a practiced ease. The evolution of her relationship with Catherine is recognisable in any family dynamic, moving from care to love to disdain smoothly.
The role of Robert is difficult for any actor to portray, essentially having to play three different versions of the character but being able to maintain a link throughout them is not an easy scale to balance. Christopher Clark handles it with well-seasoned professionalism. His fits of anger recognisable in all scenes, but his desperation and heartbreak is especially moving in act 2 and helps carry the ark of the show.
Finally, Freya Moore leading the show as the fiercely independent Catherine is remarkable. Freya portrays the hardness and fear of Catherine, a woman who has had so many parts of her life taken away from her, with such conviction and drive that you cannot take your eyes off her. She balances the pain behind a steely wall of sarcasm yet her moments of openness and trust feel equally as natural and she manages to balance this characters upsetting backstory with a determined poise.
The costumes did a good job in helping aids the characters story, but a particular mention must be made to how quickly some changes happened off stage, which allowed the story to continue at unbroken pace. This is surely a testament to stage manager, Scarlet Moore’s, running a tight knit backstage. The technical elements of the show such as lighting and sound design were serviceable however, for my performance, had some small technical issues and potentially going further with some elements could have helped sell the story further.
All in all, Director Amy Lawler has led her team with a well-practiced and decisive hand to create a compelling piece of theatre. I eagerly look forward to seeing what not only she, but the Theatre on Chester is able to create in the future.
3 and a half mathematical proofs out of 5 but unfortunately, no muffin recipe.