MARK DANCIGER is blown away by this powerful and highly polished production.
There are times when you are reminded just how great Cambridge theatre can be. Every term, there are a handful of shows which reach far beyond the expected standard for student drama and achieve a near professional quality. Proof is one of those select few.
It’s a simple yet powerful story. Catherine (Bea Svistunenko) is suffering from depression, brought on by the strain of caring for her mentally ill father, the brilliant mathematics professor Robert (Will Peck). After Robert’s death, Catherine has to deal with her own worsening illness, as well as pressure from her pushy sister, Claire (Kay Dent) and her father’s ex-student, Hal (Will Chappell).
Right from when you first enter the Corpus Playroom, it’s clear that you are in for a polished performance. The crew have managed to construct a remarkably detailed veranda on the tiny Corpus stage, and it looks gorgeous. The set would not be out of place in an ADC mainshow; as it stands it blows any other Corpus set I’ve ever seen out of the water.
However, it never feels as if the actors are upstaged by the set- every performance in Proof is masterful. Svistunenko shines as Catherine, at times unbalanced, at others dazzlingly intelligent. Dent and Peck are also outstanding as Claire and Robert respectively.
Worthy of special praise is Will Chappell as awkward yet charming mathematician Hal. On stage he never appears to be acting – he simply is Hal. This kind of unity between actor and character is a feat rarely achieved by even professional performers, and to see it on the Corpus stage is nothing short of astonishing.
The direction is equally good, first-time director Hazel Lawrence handling the powerful script with a mature and subtle touch. The play never feels overblown, and Lawrence deals equally well with moments of calm reflection as she does loud confrontations.
The show is also excellent from a technical perspective. The lighting transitions from naturalistic to surreal at just the right moments, and the music that occasionally drifts across the stage is consistently moving.
This is not to say that Proof was perfect – there were occasional line slips, and the American accents were not always convincing. It’s also extremely long, and certain scenes are perhaps unnecessary. However, it’s a testament to the quality of the performance that these issues rarely detract from the power of the show.
To say that Proof is good is an understatement. It perfectly balances poignant moments with comedy, and even these comedic moments are so well acted that they become poignant in themselves. I cannot recommend this show highly enough. Go and see it.