The Curious Incident of the Apollo roof tumbling down at the end of December brought media attention to Marianne Elliot’s production of Mark Haddon’s best-seller for all the wrong reasons. Fortunate enough to experience this slick West-end production a week before the disaster, I was struck by the incredible attention to detail which saw the seats with prime numbers (the protagonist’s mathematical love) accentuated with white seat-covers and his outfits consistent with his colour preferences (red, never brown.) Shame, then, that the £1-a-head ‘restoration’ levy for the theatre was not put to better use.
It is undoubtedly challenging to stage a novel which provides a touching insight into an autistic boy’s confusion as he investigates a murdered dog, but this production allows the audience to appreciate Christopher’s misunderstanding without losing sympathy. Tackled by Luke Treadaway, who never leaves the stage, with impressive stamina, the performance is convincing and the humour frequent.The decision to use Christopher’s teacher as the narrator verges on the patronising at times, although also allows the adaption to be pleasingly loyal to the novel.
From deafening white noise when characters accidentally touch Christopher, to coloured stage blocks which multi-role as ovens, seats and even suitcases, the technologies and staging used are bold and relentlessly different. Although regular black-outs and bright lights create the assault on the senses that the protagonist faces, some of these innovations feel dramatic for their own sake. This is a shame, when so much of the production is praiseworthy.
Nothing detracted from the phenomenal quality of acting. Christopher’s parents were particularly commendable, providing moving and believable portrayals of the frustrations and complications of raising any child. The supporting cast, too, were impressive, remaining anonymous when being props for Christopher but bursting into life during snippets of dialogue. Treadaway is a strong lead throughout, although seems to ease into the character more in the second half: by his triumphant final explanation of his A Level Maths question as an unconventional encore, Treadaway is positively vibrant.
Lucky enough to get 4 front row seats on the day for only £12 apiece, the experience was certainly excellent value for money. Largely deserving of its 7 Olivier Awards in 2013, including Best Play, this production is undoubtedly worth a visit. I hope to see the Apollo theatre reopening this month to continue to treat audiences to this hilarious yet poignant production.