It may seem a trifle unfair to blog about this magnificent translation of an outstanding book into a significant play, since this run is completely sold out. However, I am sure that it will either get an extended run or get transferred to another theatre – though I am not sure how that would work.
This production, with a stellar cast, now running at the Cottesloe Theatre (at the National) in London is played in-the-round. If you haven’t read the book and intend to there follows a spoiler or two here, so stop reading now.
The premise of both play and book, is that Christopher Boone (played brilliantly by Luke Treadaway seen recently in a TV adaptation by Marek Losey of Ruth Rendell’s book Thirteen Steps Down) has written a book about his research into the death of a dog, fatally impaled with a garden fork in the neighbour’s garden. The neighbour Mrs Shears calls the police when she finds Christopher in the garden with her dead dog. This leads to a brush with the police and an instruction from his father not to try to find out what has happened to the dog. However, Christopher desperately wishes to find out who killed Wellington so with forensic application, he begins a detective trajectory starting by interviewing all the neighbours with some unforeseen results.
Throughout the book, Christopher describes himself as having behavioural difficulties. [Asperger’s syndrome is never mentioned, this is a label that got stuck to the book after it was nominated for the Man Booker Prize Shortlist.] One of these difficulties being that he cannot bear to be touched, which is why he goes into a frenzy when the policeman touches him and why he ends up in the police station. In the play, his teacher [Niamh Cusack] (in a special school where Christopher himself thinks everyone else is stupid) is reading the book and suggests that it should be turned into a play, the play in the Cotttesloe is that imaginative leap.
So with no scenery, and a complicated choreography of players (there is considerable doubling and trebling up) and props we are presented with the whole story: the mathematics, the astronomy, the ordered disorder of Christopher’s mind and behaviour. Magnificently theatrical, with terrific lighting effects from above and below, this rendition is a triumph of imagination and power.
To anyone who cannot see what a dramatic rendition of this story adds to the book, I say this: you are being blind-sided by having the wrong approach. Do not go with the intention of comparing it to the book, you will lose everything this play has to offer. This is a feast of the IMAGINATION in 3D. Faithful to the book AND marvellously inventive.
The auditorium has some special seats where the audience is invited to find out whether their names add up to a prime number. To do this you equate each letter with a number: a=1; b=2, c=3 etc and add them all together…it is quite fun try it!