I’m never one to really enjoy the live theatre thanks to my anxiety and also that fact that I find the noise and lighting over helming.
When I entered the Hippodrome, the stage looked like something from a scene from Tronall; the black panels in the form of a tightly constructed box with grids (which later turned out to be screens used when Christopher writes on the floor) which was unveiled in the opening scene with a viciously murdered dog slap in the centre with a pitch fork sticking from it and actors scattered around the crime scene.
It was action packed from the very start, fifteen year-old Christopher John Francis Boone begins his journey at the scene of the crime with Mrs. Shears murdered dog, Wellington playing the role of the victim.
I really don’t want to give away the story because this really is definitely something you need to experience for yourself either by watching it performed or by reading the book (here’s a useful Amzon link for the book http://amzn.to/28UQ6bu)
But I will say a lot has been written about Haddon’s portrayal of Christopher, in that he has a form of autism (Asperger’s syndrome), Haddon had a number of jobs when he was younger including one where he worked with children with learning difficulties, so it’s quite easy to jump to conclusions about the playwright’s influences. Interviews with Haddon reveal that this is not as simple a conclusion as we are led to believe; Haddon said of his previous work: “Only in retrospect do I realize that some of the people I worked with had autism, although they had it much more seriously than Christopher does.”
Whatever your conclusion about Christopher’s behavioural issues, you certainly feel engulfed deep in the mind of this math-genius-come-detective, in part due to the precision of the actors who play him, combined with the clever use of the stage set to create and at times a chaotic and claustrophobic atmosphere.
This production is definitely one of the best I’ve seen (from plays I’ve managed to see before), and one I will love to go and see again. The use of such a small set to portray a story that is so complex (a play within a play) is flawless. For the designers among you, it’s use of props, lighting, graphics, choreography and hyper dose of electronic beats to allow us to perfectly delve into Christopher’s mind is a sensory pleasure. The designer, Bunny Christie perfectly achieved her goal of replicating Christopher’s description of himself as Sherlock Homes in the book and in particular that his mind was comparable to a laboratory. The set really was the lead character and the agile set design perfectly echoed the way our protagonist’s mind jumps around the timeline without detracting from the many layers of the story.
For those of you looking to be gripped by a story that perfectly blends tragedy and humour, whilst encasing you in an empathy and compassion, you won’t be disappointed.