The play explores the delicate emotional balance of families and individuals, but through the eyes of someone whose emotional process is ordered and based on numbers and facts. The staging is cleverly boxed off into a giant chalkboard-like cube, which is summoned to life at various points, lifting out illustrations much like the ones used in the book and painting them out in lights, diagrams and colours. This is used to project the inner workings of Christopher’s mind, which is tangled amongst the often debilitating Asperger’s that is implied but unspoken. The realities of living through this kind of lens is done beautiful justice by writer Simon Stephens, director Marianne Elliott and of course through the strength of the cast’s talents. Joshua Jenkins plays an almost obnoxiously black and white Christopher, whose bluntness affords him both a sympathetic and clownish character. Tiny twitches and vocal inflections truly paint a realistic image of someone afflicted with such eccentricities, marking Jenkins as an obvious star. Hadden himself makes no admission of the complete accuracy behind his portrayal of Asperger’s, only that we must agree upon the question of how real we consider the character to be. Support from his on stage parents, played by Stuart Laing and Gina Isaac is equally as impressive; their moments of equal tenderness and frustration paint the picture of parents torn between love and fear.
Hadden’s original words translate into an honest, tender and hilarious script, the various highlight moments of which are completely shared with the audience on a distinctly human level; we laugh heartily without worry, and are even prompted to wipe our eyes discreetly as the play nosedives between the profound emotions of aspiration to the humble yet heart wrenching difficulties of family and love.
The realism of this script which is adapted so well from the pages of Mark Hadden’s original novel is interjected with moments of surrealist choreography; characters like Christopher and his mother are in some instances carried gently around the stage by secondary characters who almost double up as props; floating around the stage like figments of Christopher’s consciousness. This ebb and flow literalises the way that the mind processes memory and emotions, almost dreamlike amongst the more clean cut components of maths and physics, lists and logic. The mime-like routines bring inventiveness to the stage, matching Christopher’s unique mind, and we almost feel as though we are ourselves, caught in amongst his synapses.
Props are minimal and made up of various white cubes which are engaged with, in various guises throughout the play and secreted when not in use behind a serious of cupboards, panels and pull outs which seem to melt in and out of the wall, as if it it were made of a weird elastic mass, highlighting the prevalence of physics and maths in Christopher’s life and adapting seamlessly to the situation, as thought manipulated by his imagination.
Winning 7 Oliver Awards in 2013, and only staged in Leeds for five days, this is one hot ticket. With the closing show on Saturday 29th, book here while you still can!