A number of the seats in the auditorium at the Apollo are covered in white fabric, with a pocket on the back containing a card. The white covers appear to be randomly sprinkled, but they’re not, and, initially, my heart sank when I saw that my seat was draped, but, after I’d read the card, I was intrigued enough to see if I would get a prime number if I ‘added up’ all the letters in my name, to match the prime number location of my seat.
This game is all part of the experience of entering into the world of 15 year old Christopher Boone. Brilliant at maths, but finding most things about the world, especially other people with their tendency not to tell the truth, confusing, Christopher decides to investigate the death of Wellington his neighbour’s dog. In pursuing that investigation, Christopher learns the things his father hasn’t been entirely truthful about.
Adapted from the novel by Mark Haddon, the strength of this production is in its visual inventiveness. The stage is set a square box lined with graph paper, setting the regular lines and patterns that Christopher needs to feel secure and calm. And with clever use of lights and projections as well as the simple use of chalk, we have an insight into his thought processes.
Opening with a tableau of the dog lying dead, pinned beneath the prongs of a garden fork, the play is structured first as the book Christopher has written about his investigation, and it then morphs into the school play based on that story. Without being overly mannered in its execution, this story within a play convention allows a little exploration of the divide between the creation of fiction and Christopher’s insistence on facts and forensic accuracy.
It is possible for us all to sympathise with one or more aspects of how the world seems determined to mystify and thwart him; the aggressive noise and crowds of London to those unfamiliar with it, the nuisance that other people can be when they step over the boundaries of what we are prepared to allow them, and the absurdity of the way some people speak and express themselves.
The performances from the ensemble cast are excellent. There are some changes from the original production at the National Theatre, and I’m afraid as I was too mean to buy a programme, and as I’ve not been able to find the cast list online, I can’t name them. Many play multiple parts and engage in the choreographed dance like elements; I particularly enjoyed a scene in which Christopher, dreaming he is floating in the stars, too numerous to count, is carried shoulder high, twisting and somersaulting through the air. Knowing how much strength must have been required to achieve this, made the joyful effortlessness of it look even more impressive.
I could have done without the live puppy brought on to sentimental oohs and aahs from the audience, although, inevitably, so tiny was it, I did start to wonder how many puppies would be needed for an extended run, and how big each one would need to be before it was replaced.
Sadly, 129, the total I arrived at for my name, isn’t a prime number, but, as I recall from my school Maths Club days, and I’d like to think that Christopher knows this too, it is the sum of the first 10 prime numbers. So, no prize, but a satisfactory answer none the less.