Given that the original award-winning novel by Mark Haddon is told from the very singular, focused perspective of a 15-year-old boy on the autistic spectrum, it’s surprising that there are a growing number of theatrical adaptations doing the rounds. While it’s the current National Theatre production in London (adapted by Simon Stephens) that’s getting all the media attention and acclaim, it’s clear from the near-full auditorium at Augustine’s that it’s not the only take on this book that is getting noticed.
Told by a youthful but genuinely talented cast, all dressed in simple black, this adaptation (running at under an hour) is a necessarily speedy affair, with tight choreography used effectively to express the too-busy, too-noisy world that constantly threatens to overwhelm the central character, Christopher. Unlike the National (which solves the question of a narrative taking place largely inside Christopher’s head by presenting the story as a ‘play within a play’), Big Spirit Theatre’s director/choreographer Becky Lee opts for a divided persona, with Josh Sharp (particularly effective when displaying the innocent, yet obdurate Christopher) sharing the narrative duties with the decidedly more muscular Brendan Lucia as ‘Christopher’s Mind’. Far from a distracting presence, Lucia is effective as both a part of the ‘chorus’, and standing apart from the rest of the cast as they take on characters ranging from fellow school pupils to commuters on the Tube.
It is somewhat ironic, given how Christopher and Christopher’s Mind repeatedly remind the audience that he doesn’t like fiction or metaphors (because, unlike maths, they’re not true and so therefore lies), that this show uses choreography, symbols, and broad-stroked lighting so effectively to give colour and depth to its narrative. Yet, at its close, a small dissatisfaction remains; though Christopher’s condition necessarily means that he finds it difficult to process and understand emotions, that doesn’t mean the audience shouldn’t be allowed to feel more about the events portrayed before them. Confined by its limited time slot, there is a sense that this production risks being more haste, all speed.