Artefact Theatre Company’s Proof – Review
Artefact Theatre Company’s Proof is an incredibly moving examination of the impact mental illness has on our lives led by the tour de force Madeleine Jevic.
Proof follows the story of Catherine who has inherited her father’s mathematical genius. Yet the ability to solve unfathomable equations and a dictionary-like knowledge of mathematical theorems cannot solve the fear that she will also inherit his debilitating mental illness. This Pulitzer Prize-winning play begins after her father’s death. Feeling straded in the large house where she took care of him at the expense of her own life and education, she is forced to re-examine her current situation and work out how to fit the pieces back together.
Madeleine Jevic plays the lead role of Catherine in her theatrical debut. Most Australian audiences would know Madeleine from the hilarious ABC hit ‘Upper Middle Bogan’ where she plays the pop culture and fashion-obsessed Brianna Wheeler, but Proof allows the audience to see a different side to her remarkable talent.
Catherine’s journey through the play varies from happy memories with her father, a blooming love affair with gifted PhD student Hal, conflicts with her accomplished sister and a crippling fear of inheriting her father’s mental illness which manifests as self-doubt giving Madeleine an incredibly diverse set of circumstances to master. Barely leaving the stage for the entire play, her presence is electric taking the audience on a memorable journey through regaining control of her life.
Supporting Catherine (albeit unwanted at times) are her sister Claire – living the dream in New York with a spacious apartment and a loving partner – and one of her father’s PhD students, Hal. Anna Burgess doesn’t have an easy role taking on Claire. Trying to find a balance between supporting Catherine’s wishes and getting her the help that she needs is a tough line to tread. Especially when she knows that she is in a position to help Catherine despite her resistance. However, Anna Burgess manages to balance these two competing interests while also capturing the annoyance that only a big sister can add to her younger sister’s life.
Mark Yeates plays Catherine’s conflicted love interest and PhD student Hal mastering the geekiness required of any maths genius while also bringing out the best of Catherine in one of the most difficult periods of her life. While flashbacks to his younger self may play a bit on the geeky stereotype, this brings a welcome contrast to his present – and more developed – character who slowly falls in love with Catherine.
Rounding out the cast is Roy Barker as Catherine’s father, Robert. Although deceased, he appears both in flashbacks and in Catherine’s head at the opening of the play providing a mental sparring partner as she debates her sanity. Especially moving is his depiction of a man who has succumbed to his mental illness again despite complete faith that his brilliant mind is still with him.
As mental health takes a more important place in society – especially around election time – this is the perfect time to bring this play back to Australian audiences with a surprisingly real story that strongly resonates questions which many of us contemplate during our lives. How much of ourselves do we inherit from our family? And how much control do we ultimately have over the outcome? Book your tickets now for this truly moving work.
Proof is playing at Alex Theatre, St. Kilda for a strictly limited season until June 19th. To book tickets and for more information visit www.proofmelbourne.com
Photo Credits: Theresa Harrison