Reviewed by Ellen Becker
At one point or another, we all grapple with the imprint our parents make on our being: the trickle down effect of personality traits and ticks, the inescapable hereditary markers, the way they shape us with their presence, and – sometimes - their absence. We are inevitably cast in their shadow, forever tied to a terrestrial pole by which we measure our success, or our failure, whether we’re comfortable in our parents’ image or want to free ourselves of it. David Auburn’s Pulitzer Prize winning play Proof explores this universal sentiment with wit and humanity, and Freefall’s new production does the work – and the questions it raises - supreme justice.
25 year-old Catherine (Ylaria Rogers), has reached a pivotal moment in her life. Having set aside her own aspirations to care for her ailing father Robert (Peter Flett), a brilliant mathematician plagued by mental illness, she is forced to confront her own talent and tendencies in the wake of his sudden death. While her sister Claire (Julia Christensen), is a highly functional, successful somebody in New York, Catherine has spent years weathering the lows of her father’s decline. Once a budding mathematician herself, Catherine assures Robert’s enthusiastic protégé Hal (Alex Brown) that he’ll find nothing in Robert’s piles of nonsensical scribblings. When Hal uncovers a game-changing proof, it might prove that Robert experienced moments of light and clarity in his final days, or that Catherine is following a little too closely in her father’s footsteps.
Ylaria Rogers is exceptional as Catherine, once settling into the role on first night, she exuded a naturalness on stage that nicely strays far from melodrama. Peter Flett balances Rogers with an eccentric, jubilant interpretation of Robert, which reaches a heartbreaking crux in the second act. Alex Brown also provides much relief as the gentle, charming but dorky Hal, forging a palpable chemistry with Ylaria Rogers that invited the audience to become thoroughly invested in their budding relationship. Pulling these forces together is Jeremy Allen’s beautifully conceived set design, providing a tight space for these relationships to unfold, invoking the weight of the past that hangs heavily in every scene. Nourishing and authentic, Proof is a potent debut by new theatre collective Freefall Productions – proving they’re certainly one to watch.
For tickets, visit http://newtheatre.org.au/proof/
Photos by Michael Snow