10 March 2012

Mathematics of the Heart at Theatre 503

I was quite impressed by my first visit to Theatre 503 in Battersea.

The location on Battersea Park Road is conveniently connected to Clapham Junction by more buses than I knew there were.

It's above the Latchmere Pub which is nice enough despite having ideas above its station that are reflected in the remarkably high prices for everything. And a distinct lack of vegetarian options on the menu.

The theatre is reached by a period staircase from the pub and that takes you to an unexpectedly large and modern reception area. This feels like a proper theatre.

When the doors open a few more steps are climbed in to the theatre and then a few more back down to the front row. There your bum is the same height as the stage and your feet below it, just like at the Chocolate Menier Factory.

We are sitting in the living room of Dr Paul MacMillan, the mathematician in the title. He is a professor of Chaos Theory with an interest in storm patterns. He is not married but has a steady girl friend, Emma, a lawyer, who has her own place.

Things look fine, if slow, until his father dies bringing two new things in to his life.

The first is his brother, Chancer, who is, to put it simply, a layabout.

He sings in a band but that seems to be more for the fun than the money and he puts little effort in to furthering his career despite talking about making it big one day.

The other is a boat.

Their father made model boats and was working on a full-sized one when he died.

The boat is the hook to get the brothers talking about their shared past and their different impressions of it.

One ship-in-a-bottle had been a turning point for both of them. Paul broke it accidentally and Chancer saw the opportunity to impress his father by mending it only for Paul to trump him by discovering a mathematical trick.

Another complication arrives in the shapely shape of research student Zainab. Chancer takes an immediate shine to her, obviously not the first time that he does done this, and his persistent and exaggerated wooing soon works.

In turning his attention to the boat and the past, Paul neglects his future and Emma who wants their steady-state relationship to evolve. Another turning point comes when she thinks that the next step is being taken but Paul is oblivious to this and misses the moment.

The play is both poignant and funny and Kefi Chadwick can be proud of what she has achieved here. I also loved the Andy Warhol dress that she was wearing. It was nice to be able to congratulate her in person afterwards.

I am never scared to criticise a play where I feel it is necessary and it's necessary now.

Who on earth decided that a professor of mathematics should have a copy of Enid Blyton's Island of Adventure on his bookshelf? I have this edition myself and recognised Kiki the parrot immediately!

That intriguing blemish apart MOTH was a superb experience on all fronts; script, staging, acting and setting. Yet another example of why small theatre can be so much more rewarding than the sometimes canon fodder theatre of the West End.

Theatre 503 is a little gem that sits alongside the likes of Arcola and Jackson's Lane. This is why I live in London.

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