Following the recent death of her father, we begin on the night of Catherine’s twenty-fifth birthday where she is left to face the arrival of her estranged sister, a persistent former student of her fathers, and the reality that the genius that she has inherited from her father could come at a terrible price. Catherine may have inherited the illness her father suffered with for years, years that Catherine sacrificed to look after him.
First of all, let’s start with the setting. The Tabard Theatre is a perfect venue for a play like Proof. The piece is set in Chicago and the story unfolds on Julia and Robert’s front porch. Michael Leopold’s design is essentially simple but the added elements of leaves caught in drain pipes and the dingy colouring of the wood on the house really set the idea of an aged and broken home…perhaps to represent the family themselves. The Tabard only has ninety-six seats but this allows the play to become more intimate as we connect with the character’s lives.
Julia Papp gives a strong and believable performance as Catherine. While we see her mourning for her loss, we also catch glimpses of her feistier and jokey self. Tim Hardy plays Robert as a very loving father however there are no particular dynamics in the way Robert speaks or acts so it’s hard to tell just how severe his illness is. Kim Hardy as Hal is geeky and endearing to watch as the shy love interest for Catherine. A commendable performance goes to Mary-Anne Cafferkey who plays Claire as the bossy controlling sister, and with perfect comedic timing manages to steal some of the scenes for herself. There was some slight struggle to maintain a strong American accent from the cast.
We can see that the characters are all flawed but there is no particular moment where we are shocked or moved. Whilst the performance was engaging, the pace never really picks up; the long blackouts between some scenes were a contributing factor to this.
Despite admirable performances, there are some rocky places. While the audience do laugh and there are some tender moments, the piece fails to bring out the rawness of each character and the effect mental illness has in society.
Reviewed by Ellie Devonshire
Photo: Camilla Greenwell
Proof is playing at the Tabard Theatre until 24 October 2015. Click here for tickets