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LETTERS TO EDITOR
A CurtainUp London Review
by Lizzie Loveridge
As Catherine, the complex heroine of Auburn's play, Paltrow is delightfully subtle, underplaying the role as is only possible in these very small studio spaces. Slight, fair and with small expressive hands, she seems very vulnerable. For two and a half hours, we forgot that we were seeing one of Hollywood's princesses, but instead could concentrate on the characterisation of the brittle and delicate Catherine who has sacrificed her education to care for her academic but psychologically disturbed father.
I found the play very well constructed and the issues it raises linking inheritance, psychological instability and genius involving. David Auburn paints a picture of family tension between the two sisters, setting up enough ambiguity about Catherine to keep the conclusion in some doubt. For details of the plot and the performances in New York, see Elyse Sommer's review and follow up.
Roland Pickup convinces as the slightly barmy professor of mathematics. It doesn't matter that his accent is part British, part Scots; this just adds to his eccentricity. Richard Coyle, fresh from appearing in The York Realist, with his mop of curls and tiny moustache is the geeky doctorate student, mathematician and hobby rock musician who gets involved with Catherine. Coyle is maybe rather too affable and less ambiguous than the playwright intended. He comes back not for the girl, but for the manuscript. Sara Stewart is effective as the controlling, power dressed elder sister and accountant Claire, who wants to sell the Chicago house and force Catherine to move to New York, probably to a psychiatric care facility.
Rob Howell's atmospherically lit, revolving set places the play on a peeling painted porch of the Chicago house with its collection of old trunks, rugs and wooden furniture but there are times when the pillars supporting the porch obstruct the actors. The only reason for the set to revolve was, I felt, so that the impact of the offending pillar was shared around. The director however minimises these moments by not allowing the cast to stay too static. It is a play which avoids sentiment and the resulting equation combines excellent performances with cohesive and expressive writing. As a part of the Donmar's season of American Imports, the whole run of Proof has been sold out for a very long time but queue for returns daily.
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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