Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

A question of numbers

Making is all add up: Marika Farr (right) as Catherine. daughter of  maths genius Robert, sharing her thoughts with her sister Claire, played by Tori Wakeman


The Nonentities

The Rose Theatre, Kidderminster


YOU turn up, not knowing what the title implies, but you soon discover that what binds the characters together is something mathematical, something unnervingly original – and by jingo, you're glad you came. 

This is because the maths – or, indeed, the math, because the setting is Chicago and Americans are prone to tackle the subject with singular insistence – are less important than the people. 

There's Robert, the genius, and there's Catherine, his daughter, who seems pretty well as bright as he is – well, we discover that she knew what a prime number was before she could read. They are the shining stars of their firmament; the restless seekers after the hidden treasures of mathematics – and there is benefit here for the rest of us: we, their uncompetitive audience, even get to know what is the highest prime number of all, because prime numbers are Robert's subject. 

Even so, David Auburn's play is not designed to make us aware of our inadequacies. It may indeed do that, but we are encouraged to concentrate on the characters and their response to a dramatic new theorem. We are not far into it before we discover that one of them is dead. The evening brims with revelation. 

It is a double triumph for Martin Copland-Gray, who not only directs it but scores quite splendidly as Robert, the kindly academic who could probably make Carol  Vordemann jealous – and who, when doubting his own mental condition, is assured that crazy people don't sit around wondering if they're nuts. 

Catherine with her father Robert played by Martin Copland-Gray who also directs

Marika Farr is a joy as Catherine, the young woman whose mathematical abilities are thrown into doubt because her handwriting is remarkably like her father's and she happens to have exposed her own brilliance in one of his 103 notebooks. Inevitably, her authorship is challenged. 

We also see her beset by anxiety as she watches her father in the grip of mental illness: is this to be her own fate? She is a young woman with a plateful of problems, but she engenders in her father a joyous excitement when he realises the extent of her interest in his work. 

Excellent support comes from Tori Wakeman, as her sister Claire, and Stuart Walton, as Hal, who has been one of Robert's students. There is not a weak link in a company who at times electrify the evening with their staccato conversations. 

I would cavil only at the intermittent tendency, particularly in the first half, to have players sitting on the front edge of the slightly-raised stage. There are two perfectly good kitchen chairs on the set, both of which could have been pressed into service and ensured more reliable viewing for back-row audience members. This is, after all, a production that deserves to be watched without unnecessary problems for the patrons. To 31-03-12

John Slim 

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