REVIEW: The Mathematics of Longing (La Boite, The Farm & The Uncertainty Principle)

Where? La Boite Roundhouse Theatre, Kelvin Grove
When? June 2 – 23

La Boite’s new production, The Mathematics of Longing, blends physics and mathematics principles with human metaphor to question the nature of reality, and somehow it all makes beautiful sense.

Written by Suzie Miller and co-presented with The Uncertainty Principle, of which Miller is Artistic Director, and Gold Coast boundary-defying dance-theatre company The Farm, The Mathematics of Longing weaves an enthralling web of equations and emotions to tell a story of the sheer joy, grief, and improbability of what it is to be human.

A multi-narrative piece set across multiple possibilities, the work tells two parallel stories across different universes and lives and versions of the self. From the theoretical physics discussed to the physics at play in twirling microphone leads and thrown beer cans, the idea of mathematics being inextricably woven into our lives was clear without being heavy-handed.

The sets, props, and lighting used in this work are particularly stunning, and I believe I actually gasped when it all came together. The multi-layered set and the way that the artists interact with it is, in itself, a fascinating part of the play (designed by Ross Manning, with carpentry by Jamie Bowman and steel fabrication by G&V, and set build coordinated by Andrew Mills). It was also interesting to see the actors actively setting up props and lighting devices onstage – it flowed in to the themes of cause and effect, and explainable mystery, being explored in the play.

Composition and sound design by Ben Ely of Regurgitator draws the audience further into the work, and costume design by Anthony Spinaze helps to set the scene more clearly. Ben Hughes always does a stunning job with lighting design, and Mathematics of Longing is no different – the lighting is used to great effect to draw the audience’s eye, to highlight, to separate, and to bring together everything happening on stage.

One scene includes a brief, intimate piece of contemporary dance, executed with beautiful fluidity by Gavin Webber and Kate Harman of The Farm, with Webber performing his entire (very energetic and acrobatic) role wearing a moonboot, which didn’t seem to hinder him at all. Seriously impressive.

Merlynn Tong stands out with her clear voice and perfect pacing, and Ngoc Phan and Todd MacDonald have great onstage chemistry as the audience watches their relationship evolve across time and space.

Despite the weighty explanations of complex mathematics, the dialogue does not feel heavy or difficult to follow, and the links to metaphor and human experience do not feel stretched or unlikely. The repetition of words in a different set of circumstances is very powerful, as is the strong imagery of characters separated, physically or emotionally, between the different areas of the set.

The work is grounded in the many ways that mathematics and science are used to explain the world around us, not only in a clinical academic sense but also for ourselves in times of personal crisis, or joy, or change. Scientifically speaking, this is a magical piece of work.

Poetic and highly physical, The Mathematics of Longing is a beautiful and thought-provoking production that will leave you with plenty to discuss, long after the lights are turned off.

You can purchase tickets to The Mathematics of Longing via QTIX.