For people who have read ‘Curious Incident’, it may seem baffling that it has not only been converted into a stage play, but a highly successful one at that. Going into it with some trepidation, I was wary about how such a complex issue would be dealt with in a theatrical setting.
Trepidation lasted about ten minutes; it takes that long to get into the swing of things, to pick up how the action will occur throughout the play and engage with the performance art aspect of the actions unfolding. The stage was almost an interactive whiteboard; chalk projections and light spectacles represented Christopher Boone’s Aspergers. Simplistic faces displayed his attempts to navigate everyday life, whereas flashing lights and pulsing music reflected the inability to cope with demands of a social world, resulting in blackout – not just Christopher, but the entire audience is plunged into darkness, completing the process of providing an insight into an autistic meltdown, and how a failure to compute leads to system failure.
The mixture of narration and interplay of different situations again are wonderful explorations of how social life moves far too quickly for Christopher to comprehend, as well as showing how his mind moves between situations (such as the language of promises being reflected in ‘doing chatting’ instead of ‘bloody detective’ games).
The characters are nothing short of Mark Haddon’s originals, and top performance has to be assigned to Graham Butler as Christopher – he married curious intelligence with blinding naivety perfectly, no overacting or condescension, just a clear portrayal of the literal details of the life he was embodying.
Likewise, Emily Joyce (Judy Boone) and Nicolas Tennant (Ed Boone) were realistic; no golden parenting, no breakthrough in understanding their son at last, just normal people coping with the hand life dealt them as best as they can. What is heartbreaking is both of their emotional pleas for intimacy and how Christopher cannot grasp this, is even repulsed by this; they need something they know cannot be provided, and it’s painful to even consider not being able to have unconditional love from your child.
The ensemble performances were, undoubtedly, key in securing the main cast members’ success. Collaboration wasn’t desired, it was necessary in order to complete some of the stunts set for them, to time their knocks on the imaginary doors to music, to position the world of the play appropriately, and how they mastered that timing is spectacular.
The National Theatre production’s second run is enjoying huge success, and is soon to go on tour and enjoy a stint at the cinema – I urge you to enter the mind of Christopher Boone and attempt to understand a section of the world that is foreign territory for most of us, and widen your experiences just as Christopher does.