Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

“Number Theory and Grief”- “maths useful, fun and even sexy!”

Wales at Edinburgh Fringe

Hartshorn-Hook/ Angels &Virgins Theatre Company- The Root of -1 , C Soco, Edinburgh , August 20, 2008
Wales at Edinburgh Fringe by Hartshorn-Hook/ Angels &Virgins Theatre Company- The Root of -1 Scotsgay Theatre was at “the Root of -1” 4th August and gave it four stars.

“I’m a sucker for intellect, so this play appealed to me from the very start. This production is a master-stroke as it manages to mingle the rules of mathematics with the subject of loss and relationship dynamics. As Colwyn and Rachel struggle to hold their relationship together, they turn to the realm of mathematics when they find that they have ‘no other language in common’.

“This is done seamlessly and convincingly, dealing with the subject of loss in a sensitive, poignant and empathetic manner – ‘the normal rules that hold our day together just fall away’. And with all that talk of calculus, algorithms and numbers as a promise of order and certainty, there was a frisson of passion in the air as the couple pulled together stronger than ever. A production which proves that maths can be useful, fun and even sexy!”

Broadway Baby 6th August gave it three stars.

“Hartshorn-Hook and Angels and Virgins Theatre Company present this new drama by Adam Somerset at the rather early time of 11 am in C SoCo. The piece is played by three young actors, and tells a story of love and loss, with a slice of maths theory (hence the title) thrown in.

“Rachel (Julia Harbinson) and Colwyn (Nick Ofield) play a couple coming to terms with the death of Rachel’s beloved younger sister, Michelle. Naiomi Roberts plays both maths lecturer Karen, and counsellor Emily. The action charts part of the grief counselling sessions, Rachel and Colwyn’s claustrophobic flat, where they seek to sort through Michelle’s things, and Rachel's relationship with Karen.

“Harbinson as Rachel is spiky and fragile, always on edge, and Ofield as Colwyn pulls off the confused and frustrated partner. Roberts’ portrayal of Emily’s mannerisms, foibles and the forced formalities of a counsellor’s role works particularly well, and points to potential as a comic actress.

“The set is simple and adequate. The writing, by Somerset and developed by the cast, is ambitious, gradually revealing the tragic circumstances of Michelle’s death. For the most part this narrative works, but it does leave a fair bit unresolved, particularly in the relationships between Michelle and both Colwyn and Karen. The mediations on the problems explained in the maths lectures show a thoughtful author, but can be a little taxing and heavy handed, and I end up wondering if there might be a way of handling these more subtly.”

“From the more informal audience commentary: “I think it would be wrong to say i enjoyed this play because of the subject and content, however i left the theatre and i could not stop thinking about the play. The writing was sometimes difficult to keep track of however the talented three hander did a very good job of a wordy play. Absolutely fascinating! I would go again.”

Four stars are given by an audience response headed “Number Theory and Grief.”

“Separately and together a couple seeks help from a counselor to deal with the loss of her young sister who was a math prodigy. Numbers pervade the script as the woman decides to continue her sister’s math course, and a nursery rhyme involving numbers figures prominently. While the novel ongoing references to the properties of numbers proved interesting to me as a computer scientist, the story of reconciliation with grief seemed mundane.”

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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