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Review - The Mathematics of Longing: confusing formula

Right: Gavin Webber and Kate Harman. Photo by Art-Work Agency. Deanne Scott's after-party Photos follow the review.

The Mathematics of Longing

By Suzie Miller

Co-creators and performers: Kate Harman, Todd MacDonald, Ngoc Phan, Merlynn Tong & Gavin Webber

La Boite, The Farm and the Uncertainty Principle presentation

Roundhouse Theatre

Kelvin Grove


Season: June 2-22. Duration: 60 minutes. Bookings: 07 3007 8600 or

Back at La Boite is multi-award winner Suzie Miller, whose adaptations of Medea and Snow White were hit shows in 2015 and 2016 with her new creation, The Mathematics of Longing. which is an hour-long collaboration between La Boite, Gold Coast based dance-theatre company The Farm, and Miller’s production house The Uncertainty Principle.

The Mathematics of Longing is realised by a collective led by The Farm’s Kate Harman and Gavin Webber (The Ninth Wave; Tide), La Boite Artistic Director and CEO Todd MacDonald, and performers Ngoc Phan (A Streetcar Named Desire; The Village) and Merlynn Tong (Blue Bones), with sound design by Regurgitator’s Ben Ely and set design by Brisbane-based visual artist Ross Manning.

It is described as: a poignant illustration of science and humanity, tackling first loves, love lost, family tragedy and the triumph of the human spirit that, through a series of vignettes, invites audiences to “think outside the square”, according to Miller.

“Maths is a language created by humans to find the wonder and the transcendental about the world and the universe, as well as the beauty, power and fragility of the human soul,” Miller said. “Like theatre, maths is another abstract way of explaining the inexplicable; it allows us to turn knowns into unknowns, and vice versa.”

So what did we get? First, a trio of stairways that led to a flat platform, piles of books and five actors playing in short vignettes that included , facing the loss of a newborn, breakups and make-ups with a fair dose of simulated sex and a few lectures on mathematical theorems and equations, the universe, dark matter and atomic structures.

Unlike Suzie Miller’s obvious deep love of maths the subject was an “always fail” subject for me at school and since. Basic arithmetic was fine but algebra, Pythagoras, and Einstein’s theories left me in total confusion, which was how this production left me.

I could not see the connection between the scenes and they were so short that the actors had no time to create character; I didn’t care how many atoms and particles exist in the human body, nor mathematical concepts of the universe. I see no joy in maths at all.

Some of the scenes were dramatic enough to keep my interest, a couple were quite poignant as they were acted out on the top deck of the set, but at the same time, there was action going on below, a lot of contemporary dance moves and a few embraces, but that was out of sightline, so it was a matter of watching one or the other. It was however visually pleasing.

I feel this is a show that will divide whether it will conquer I’m not sure. Some people left during the performance, I was completely lost but others loved it; the audience cheered the cast to the echo, but for me The Mathematics of Longing didn’t add up.

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