Almost ten years on from its triumphant West End run, Marianne Elliott’s hi-tech National Theatre production based on Mark Haddon’s evergreen novel remains as fresh as ever – and as capable of drawing in the crowds if the full to bursting Troubadour on press night was anything to go by. West End producers anxious about post lockdown audience figures might take note: the purpose built Troubadour is an unlovely space, but its bustling location and unstuffy set up arguably has an edge over traditional playhouses when it comes to pulling in a buzzy younger crowd.
There again, the undying appeal of both book and production also has a bit to do with it. Mark Haddon’s exquisitely rendered story about a neurodiverse teenager determined to discover who killed his neighbour’s dog while struggling to fit inside a world not built for people like him is a story for our times, and the representation of marginal experience is explicitly embedded within this anniversary revival, which not only not casts an actor with autism (Connor Curren, excellent) in the role of Christopher but the partially deaf actress Sophie Stone as his mum Judy.
At the same time, the genius of Elliott’s production has always lain in the way it emulates the novel’s preoccupation with different ways of seeing by incorporating multiple forms of storytelling. So yes, Bunny Christie’s famed digital projections, which zig up and down the walls of the box shaped set to expertly convey the sense of a brilliant, visionary mind are once again the star of the show. Equally noteworthy, though, are the less ostentatious moments that rely on simple stagecraft. When Christopher discovers the many letters written to him by the mother he had believed to be dead, the cast appear out of the shadows and lift them up to the air, like birds fluttering free.