I was delighted to see this poster in one of the underground stations, since I've taught the book twice and didn't know it had been dramatized.
I called on the other MA candidates in my program to see if anyone else would be interested in seeing this production since I didn't think Joe would be very interested. Tammela, a classmate who is quickly becoming the person in London I do stuff with, took me up on the opportunity. (You can read her blog post about it here.)
|Tammela and I (iphone pic)|
For £16, I think we got a good deal. Our seats were high up, giving us an aerial view of the stage. It was slightly obstructed, but for the way the stage was set up I actually think our vantage of the play was better than someone sitting at ground level.
The grid of the stage was both incredibly appropriate for the math-oriented narrator, Christopher, and surprisingly versatile for the movement of the play from Christopher's house, neighborhood, and school, and later a traveling train, tube station, and the streets of London. Here's what I mean:
When Christopher is "doing detecting" in his neighborhood, these outlines of homes with house numbers in the middle were projected onto the floor. The white boxes were converted (through the power of imagination) into everything from sofas to microwaves to fish tanks. Another time they became seats on an overground train. There were also many cubbies in the walls and floors where cast members could pull out props when necessary.
When Christopher's Asperger's symptoms flared, sometimes the grid would be over-run with information, like these words he hears in the Tube station that make it impossible for him to focus. The visual lent itself well to putting the audience inside the head of this character, much the same way the first-person narration does in the book.
For me there were many highlights. Mike Noble as Christopher was absolutely perfect. He completely embodied the character for me; it was a seamless performance. Trevor Fox as Christopher's dad also felt like the character had leapt out of my head and onto the stage. He captured the haggard desperation of the character and his love and devotion to his son in a way that was really moving for me. I was impressed with the choreography of the production, too, and the innovative use of movement. This was an especially unexpected adaptation of the book, which allowed Christopher to move through space in the hands and on the shoulders of the other actors. As is common whenever a book is converted to stage or screen, there were opportunities for visual interpretations that just can't happen in written text. This definitely heightened the experience for me and made the story that much more real and enjoyable.
Tammela and my dinner in Chinatown was also a highlight, but I don't think the Apollo theatre can claim credit for that.
If the play were to travel to the States, I would definitely recommend it to anyone who has read the book (especially my Summa colleagues and students). I would also recommend reading the book to anyone who hasn't, but that's another post.
Another factor to note is just how easy this whole thing was. I bought tickets online only a week ahead, the Tube ride down and back took less than an hour each way (a huge deal here because of where we live), and it was just a casual night out with a friend. Whenever I've gone to the theatre in the past, it's been a production for me as well as the cast. I'm either doing it as part of a tourist experience (New York, Chicago), or it's something that I have to buy tickets for months in advance often at a high cost. In fact, I've never even gone to the theatre in Los Angeles because of the inconvenience. This was inexpensive, easy, and enjoyable. I hope that I can collect many other experiences like it during this year.