A multimedia delight of a drama

christopher at the station

The world is a terrifying place for Christopher outside of the comfortable refuge o home and special school as he braves a solo journey to London. Pictures: Brinkhoff Mögenberg

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

Wolverhampton Grand

*****

EVERY so often there comes along a play which transcends mere performance to take theatre to another plane, another world of wonder where time flies by.

The Curious incident is such an animal and it is an animal which owes much to a wonderful use of technology.

Designer Bunny Christie, with lighting from Paule Constable, video from Finn Ross, music Adrian Sutton and sound from Ian Dickinson of Autograph, has produced a set which sparks with life, a real box of theatrical tricks at the flick of, no doubt, some very expensive and sophisticated switches.

Normally when the technical team get a mention before the actors it is because the reviewer is trying desperately to find something complimentary to say or at least avoiding a damning opinion of the production, but here the staging deserves every bit as much praise as theChristopher's secret actors themselves. It is simply stunning, an ever changing visual and dramatic delight, creating moods and scenes in an instant, giving insights into the mind, putting thoughts, confusion and panic into pictures. his is not technology as a gimmick, but as a tool to help tell a tale.

As for the actors? What a performance they gave us led by Joshua Jenkins as Christopher Boone.

Christopher's detective work leads him to the secret that shatters his settled world

Anyone who has come across an autistic child, even briefly, will have sent up a silent prayer or there but for the grace of God. Those with Asperger Syndrome, one form of the condition, can travel between islands of incomprehensible behaviour set in a sea of infuriating logic, often a logic so precise it is in itself illogical.

Mark Haddon’s prizewinning novel and Simon Stephen’s award winning adaptation never specify Christopher’s condition but Jenkins portrays an autistic condition beautifully, the inability to relate normally to other people, the literal interpretation of everything, the confusion and panic in crowds or new situations, illogical fears of danger and an unawareness of real peril, as when he scrambles around the London Underground tracks to retrieve pet rat Toby, and a genius for mathematics.

The story revolves around the discovery of Wellington, who we encounter dead in a neighbour’s garden, speared by a garden fork. Christopher, aged 15, is at first accused but dismissed as a suspect because he can’t tell lies . . . not doesn’t . . . really can’t.

So Christopher, whose hero is the master of logic Sherlock Holmes, sets out to find the killer, which he manages at the cost of discovering a family secret which is to have a profound effect on his life.

Christopher lives in Swindon christopherwith his father Ed, the pair having just each other since Christopher’s mother died two years ago, or at least that is what Christopher believes.

Stuart Laing gives us a father coping, just, as a single parent of a child with difficulties and a shattered relationship.

While Gina Isaac gives us a mother, Judy, who couldn’t cope, so left, trying to be a mother at distance.

Christopher finds his world torn between  a father  who lied to him and a mother who abandoned him

Perhaps the only constant in Christopher’s life is his mentor and tutor Siobhan, Geraldine Alexander who both encourages him and brings calm to his life in moments of confusing and agitation.

We meet his neighbours, such as Mrs Shears, owner of the late Wellington, played by Clare Perkins and Mrs Alexander, a kindly old woman played by Roberta Kerr, who, despite becoming a friend in a normal world, is always going to be a stranger.

We come across teachers, policemen, Mr Shears, the other man in the Boone triangle, played by Lucas Hare station guards, and a whole host of characters who close in on Christopher as he heads to London making stations, trains, and the Underground a terrifying confusing, place. Crowds, noise and autistic disorders are not the best of bedfellows.

It is here where both the movement, from Scott Graham and Steve Hoggett of Frantic Assembly, come into their own with the cast of 14, aided by a setting of a cube of video walls and floor, creating the frantic scenes of busy station concourses and the terrors of the tube. At times we join Christopher in his world of sensory discomfort when his norm or routine is challenged

The lighting and video effects of a tube platform were particularly effective.

Unlike the book, which is told in first person singular, the play changes the narrative to Christopher’s book, his record of the investigation of the dead dog, read by a teacher, creating a play within a play, which is a technique which works well, and it is a technique which means anyone who has never read the book, or even knows nothing about it, can still enjoy the play as a standalone entity. It’s dependence upon the book is merely as a source of plot.

Director Marianne Elliott keeps up a breakneck pace, particularly in the first act, as the story unfolds rapidly as almost an adventure story, so much so that the second act, which is a more complex drama, seems more leisurely by comparison.

The play is a testimony to the power of theatre to take you beyond a stage to another place, it is a play that forces you to look at the world we all live in in a different way, including the way Christopher sees it – and you will get an audio visual proof of the Pythagoras Theorem .

That’s the one about the square on the hypotenuse being equal to the square on the other two sides – all included in the price of a ticket. Proving a triangle with sides n2 + 1, n2 - 1 and 2n (for n > 1) is a right triangle, for those interested.

This is theatre at its very best. Thinking theatre. To 21-02-15

Roger Clarke

17-02-15 

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