That certainly seems to have been the case with recently deceased university professor Robert in American David Auburn’s prize-winning. play which premiered in 2000 and arrived here a couple of years later with Gwyneth Paltrow in the role of his daughter, Catherine, who fears she may have inherited her father’s mental instability along with his mathematical talents.
Polly Findlay’s revival can’t boast such starry casting, but her taut, absorbing production, played out on the neglected back porch of their Chicago home, is marred only by one shifting accent in an otherwise perfect cast.
A ground-breaking genius in his early twenties, Robert spent much of his later years compulsively filling notebooks with nonsense and being cared for by Catherine who gave up university to look after him.
Now Hal (Jamie Parker, excellent) one of his former graduate students, thinks there’s just a small possibility that he might unearth significant work hidden somewhere in all those scribbles.
Auburn steers well clear of any complex mathematics, but the all-engrossing excitement of academic pursuit at the highest level – and the counterproductive cost at which such brilliance sometimes comes – are convincingly captured by both Matthew Marsh’s Robert and Mariah Gale’s fragile, wary Catherine.
And currency analyst Claire (Emma Cunniffe) – her bossy but well-meaning older sister who flies in from New York to take control – shows that life can be much less of a rollercoaster if one isn’t quite so gifted.
Menier Chocolate Factory
53 Southwark Street, SE1 1RU
Tube | London Bridge
Until 27th April
£27.50 – £ 35.00 (MealDeals £35.50 – £39.00)
Photo: Nobby Clark