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The Proof Is In The Pulitzer
Hazel Dunphy talks about her role in David Auburn’s critically acclaimed play Proof, currently playing at Andrew’s Lane theatre in dublin.
Joe Jackson, 22 Jan 2004
David Auburn’s Pulitzer prize-winning play Proof is one of the most successful plays in the world at the moment. It will soon be a movie, starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Anthony Hopkins. Paltrow also played the part of ‘Catherine’ when the play was produced in London. When it was staged on Broadway acclaimed actor Mary Louise Parker played the lead female role.
In such company Hazel Dunphy – who plays the part in the production of Proof currently running at Andrew’s Lane Theatre – may be relatively unknown but that’s part of the purity of this particular production in the sense that the play is not being sold on star names. As such, the fact that it was a sell out every night in the Focus Theatre, before transferring to Andrew’s Lane, is a magnificent opening salvo for new Focus Arts Director Joe Devlin. Dunphy herself is in predictably buoyant mood when hotpress catches up with her.
“The part I play is a dream part!” she enthuses. “It is the kind of part you kill to play, actually! Catherine is the central focus, she’s on stage for the full two hours and you get to cover all bases while playing the part. In fact, when I got the script, I read it and immediately said, ‘God I so much want to do this’, which doesn’t happen very often. Anyone with even half of an actor’s heart would have to go for this. I also think it is great that this is Joe Devlin’s first project for the Focus and that it has been so phenomenally successful. So much so that after Andrew’s Lane we’re taking Proof on tour.”
Hazel is fully aware that major Irish theatres must have been pursuing Auburn for the right to perform the play in Ireland but she reckons, “he’s made so much money on it, because it is on all over the world, maybe he said, ‘let’s give it to a small theatre!’ Then, again, there also is the fact that the Focus has a great history is staging such edgy, intimate and provocative plays.
“I also think another great thing about this production is that there isn’t a star name in it so it is very much an ensemble piece which also is what the Focus is all about,” adds Hazel. “Certainly the fact that I am not this big, well-known name, helps keep the play balanced because sometimes a star-name overshadows the play. When Proof was on in the Donmar in London, it sold out before it even opened because it had Gwyneth Paltrow, which you can understand. But on other occasions producers get a star name just to sell that star name and it can knock a play out of balance. People go to see the stars rather than the play. Worse still, sometimes star names just aren’t right for a play so we’ve avoided all those problems.”
So what is Proof all about? Actually, it sounds not unlike A Beautiful Mind, the movie in which star name Russel Crowe gave a magnificent performance. At least Proof is set in the same world, of mathematical science.
“I play the daughter of a man who is a mathematical genius,” Hazel explains. “Her father would be up there with John Nash, who was the professor in A Beautiful Mind. But the play opens on the eve of his funeral and he did suffer from some form of mental illness – like Nash – but then a mathematical proof is discovered in the house and the whole question of the play is did she write the proof or did she not. But that’s just the hook on which to hang an examination of relationships. So it’s about the nature of trust, the nature of genius but, mostly, relationships. The thing about mathematics is that everything can be proven, there is no room for doubt but in life there definitely is!”
In love there’s room for nothing other than doubt!
“Exactly! That, too, is what Proof is about!”
Proof is playing at Andrew’s Lane until the end of January