Brighton Fringe 2011
Mathematics of the Heart
by Kefi Chadwick
The Marlborough Theatre
"Four people’s lives clash as they attempt to deal with the ghosts of the past"
Paul MacMillan is a doctor of chaos theory whose life becomes as unpredictable as the storm patterns he studies when his mathematics teacher father dies, and his wayward brother, “Chancer”, moves in.
James Wallace’s Paul is suitably downtrodden and world weary, a man lost bobbing on the sea of life without a compass until Zainab, an attractive PhD student – played with bubbly exuberance by Bella Heesom – steers Paul’s world into a real maelstrom.
With the arrival of Paul’s uptight lawyer girlfriend, Emma (Isabel Pollen), it initially appears that this is going to be a standard love triangle, but the appearance of Chancer, turns it more into a love rhombus, with both couples running parallel lives that intersect at awkward angles.
Mark Cameron steals the show with his superb portrayal of Chancer, a man in his 40s stuck with the naive ideals of a 20-year-old musician (“I’ve been in 23 bands!”) and a lasciviousness to match.
There are heartbreaking moments as Emma doubts Paul’s boat building abilities (“let’s face it, you’re not a practical man…but you could make a computer model..!”) and tender moments too, as we begin to see the hidden depths of the characters.
All four actors were perfectly cast and confidently broke the fourth wall, interacting with the hapless stage manager (Aly Graham) to demand changes of music and to hand her unwanted props, which took the play to another level. They also occasionally interacted with the audience, without it impeding the script, revealing their true professionalism.
Performed in the round, the room was a squeeze for the audience, but the performers moved through the space effortlessly, and the minimalist set, based around cardboard boxes, was a clever choice, as giant packages are used for comedic effect (one narrowly missing the lighting rig), whilst the assembly of a large boat on stage was impressive. Smaller items were wrapped in brown paper to match the boxes which added to the overall visual continuity and produced surprises, such as a brown paper –wrapped bottle being opened and unexpectedly spurting out real bubbly.
The lighting, sound and production were also without fault, and the sound of Paul and Chancer’s deceased father teaching mathematics between scene changes ensured that his ghost hovered over the proceedings.
Running at 90 minutes with no interval, the pace is pitch perfect – witty and quick, and poignant and slow by turns – making the whole show glide mellifluously by. The audience loved it.
Award-winning playwright Kefi Chadwick’s new work is an exercise in masterpiece theatre, expertly directed by Donnacadh O’Briain. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this make the West End in the near future.