Mark Haddon’s award-winning novel explores the imaginative world of an extraordinary mind. In the National Theatre’s stage adaptation, the story is a beautifully translated performance.
Even before the show starts, we get to see the atmospheric stage design – a large cube with bright lights and various boxes placed around the stage. We also see an incredibly convincing dead dog – Wellington – with a pitchfork through it.
Then suddenly, thumping music and flashing lights start the show and set the mood. This happens throughout the play, as atmospheric music combines with stunning lighting and visual effects.
Chris Ashby stole the show with his performance of Christopher Boone. The script contains numerous details such as full postal addresses, mathematical equations and sequences. I take my hat off to Ashby for being able to recall all the information for the show. Alongside that, his performance of a character with ‘behavioural problems’ (which many readers have taken to be Asperger’s or autism) is accurate, respectful and insightful. With Ashby being the centre of the play, his ability to remember so many lines and maintain an excellent performance throughout is to be commended.
But as well as that, it’s the play’s minimalistic style which makes the show unique. Supporting actors play multiple roles and also partake in choreographed scenes and physical theatre. There are no set changes, so the screen displays describe the atmosphere for us. It is simply brilliant.
Lastly, I have to talk about the adaptation from book to play. In particular, it’s fair to say that the stage show adds so much more to Mark Haddon’s work. There’s definitely more emotion that cannot be translated as well in book form. But also, there’s one aspect of the first act of the play which I considered to be fantastic when you think about it in detail.
At the start of the play, Geraldine Alexander (whose role is Christopher’s teacher Siobhan – amongst others) narrates Christopher’s diary and internal thought processes. This is alongside the spoken dialogue by Chris Ashby.
For me, I took this to be an exploration of the two sides of a complex condition such as autism – the internal thought processes of the individual and what other people see on the outside. If this is the intention, then it is a great artistic decision and adaptation from the first person narrative in the novel.
It is this effect in the play – combined with excellent acting and an engaging set design – which enables the audience to get a deeper insight into the complex and magnificent mind of Christopher Boone.
Rating: 5 out of 5