Luke Treadaway twists, cries, writhes, fiddles nervously, howls and moves with astonishing fluidity especially in the surreal dream sequences when he is bodily threaded over – and through – the rest of the ensemble. The role of Christopher Boone, the literalist, who attends a special school, probably has Asperger’s and regards numbers and maths as a haven when everything else overpowers him, is huge but Treadaway’s marvellously sensitive, intelligent acting never flags. It is a terrific performance.
And there’s excellent support from the other nine cast members who, as a group, create physical theatre which is amusing (the voice of the cash machine, passengers taking their luggage off train, the frightening crowd on the concourse at Paddington) and often moving, with some fine cameo performances along the way. Sean Gleeson, for instance gives a powerful account of Christopher’s father – variously angry, frustrated, distraught and contrite.
In many ways, however, the real star of this show, which ran first at the Cottesloe, is Bunny Christie’s electronic graph paper design which lights up and makes imaginative use of projection as it morphs into maps, mazes, numbers and even an escalator down which Christopher reluctantly travels. And both the miniature steam train and the Labrador puppy make nice theatrical moments.
But this is also a piece with depth which, exasperated as most people get with Christopher, is a powerful exposition of the sorts of unimaginable pressures and anxieties people like him face – a valuable byproduct from a compellingly entertaining show.