By David Auburn
At The Tabard Theatre
Catherine has sacrificed her education and social life to care for her brilliant but unstable father during the worst of his mental degeneration.
On the eve of her twenty-fifth birthday Catherine must deal not only with the arrival of her estranged sister, Claire, but also with the attentions of Hal, a former student of her fathers, who hopes to find valuable work in the 103 notebooks Robert wrote in his declining years.
As Catherine confronts Hal's affections and Claire's plans for her life, she struggles to solve the most perplexing problem of all: How much of her father's madness or genius will she inherit?
Proof explores the unknowability of love, the mysteries of mathematics, the elusive nature of truth and the fine line between genius and mental illness.
Art reflects upon the human condition; it is a vital tool through which expression is given genuine freedom. Plays like Proof create empathy for situations outside our experience; they bring us closer to people and worlds we, perhaps, haven't really considered before. To further this connection, I am delighted to be supporting the charity SANE – a fantastic organisation who are part of the daily struggle helping those with mental illnesses.
Within Auburn’s beautiful writing, the fantastic story and these detailed, flawed, struggling characters there was an argument he seemed to be addressing – our concept of sanity.
Mental illness is growing throughout all western societies at an alarming rate. There are those with a latent vulnerability to developing mental illnesses; there are those seemingly healthy people who, under certain stresses and experiences, become afflicted and then there are those whom we call normal. But are we really?
PROOF opens a window into this issue; a family window and through their struggle, this question is asked of us.
What is our reality? How do we rationally delineate between madness and sanity?
We can look at someone who is having auditory or visual hallucinations and we deem that person crazy...however on the other hand, we have an entrepreneur who buys the rights to an AIDS pill and swiftly raises the price from £9 to £500 - thereby ensuring the early death and increased suffering of hundreds of thousands of people. But this isn't crazy; this isn't aberrant behaviour as such; this total lack of empathy which would normally indicate a psychopath, is business acumen. These callous acts are beginning to define our society. We absorb this and carry on. Certainly the people condemn it as we have in this case – forcing a review of the pricing but we do nothing about the underlying issues which permit and indeed encourage this kind of behaviour. We are adapted to this now - this has become normal but we all know it is anything but.
Is seeing things that aren't there as bad as denying and refusing to see things that ARE?
"It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a sick society" Jiddu Krishnamurti
This may not be a central theme of the play but it was something that struck…especially in the relationship between the sisters. It resonated with me.
I hope the play resonates with you.