Proof of "Proof"

The smorgasbord of entertainment options available for the millennials of today is vast. From television, to smart phone applications, to reading the hard copy Woroni, we have countless ways in which to spend our spare time (that we should probably be spending on study). There is one form of entertainment media, however, the popularity of which has been decreasing consistently since the days of yore. I speak of the theatre. Now, I quite understand that the mention of the word recalls memories of Ms. Darbus from High School Musical but the magic of theatre is definitely one to behold; particularly in the form of NUTS’s current production, Proof.

The story of Proof is one unlike any other I’ve ever seen. It is situated in a life quite similar, yet distant, to our own. The story is told of a university mathematical genius who battles with mental illness while attempting to keep his intellectual “machinery”. Although the idea of maths in a play may not entice all theatre-goers, the script balances its references to explicit mathematical content with the way in which characters explore the idea of the rational mind’s conflict with its emotional counterpart. Moreover, as any good play includes, there is a touch of comedy and romance – perhaps a bit too much PDA in my personal opinion – to broaden its horizons.

Proof takes place in an era bygone and transports between multiple time frames involving hallucinations, flashbacks, and the present day. The masterful script easily asserts context, in addition to the use of costume and prop changes; a credit to the production team. As I walked in to the rather intimate playhouse last night, I was faced with a simple, but effective set, which takes the form of a back porch. The proportions of the props to the stage were correct. There was enough colour to brighten the simple layout and the addition of props to the different scenes provided clues to the context. A significant mention must also be made to the lighting team who transformed the same back porch to be the scene of an array of events.

However, above all, credit must go to the acting quartet. For novices at a university, the level of professionalism was phenomenal. Catherine, the protagonist, the daughter and carer of a mathematical genius, played by Isobel Nomchong, settled into her role as the scenes proceeded and by the ending, cemented herself as the star of the show. Hal, Eldon Huang, portrayed the geeky but bright protégé of Catherine’s father and perfected the element of awkwardness to an astonishingly natural level. A high commendation must go to first-timer Amy Jenkins, who renders the role of Claire, Catherine’s interfering sister from abroad, with extreme ease; her vocal tones and body language immaculate. Finally, Robert, the genius himself, played by Michael Hingston, was depicted conscientiously, as must be the case when a youth acts as a sick, aged gentleman. The cast definitely brought the story alive and their efforts were inspiring.

A great deal of labour has gone into the production and direction of Proof and I offer hearty congratulations to Zoe O’Leary Cameron and Ria Pflaum for their accomplishments. The fiery passion of the team collectively manifests on the stage and if all else fails, this is reason enough to watch the piece.

It is with a pang of despair that I conclude this review as the future of NUTS and the ANU Arts Centre remains uncertain. I hope sincerely that this production helps NUTS to fight the good fight and come out on top.