- The Forge
Based on the novel by Mark Haddon
Adapted by Simon Stephens
Directed by Lara Macgregor
Featuring Tim Earl
Fifteen-year old mathematical genius Christopher Boone sees the world differently to everyone else. He knows all the countries of the world and their capital cities, every prime number up to 7,507, he doesn’t tell lies and his favourite colours are not yellow and brown.
When the neighbour’s dog is murdered, Christopher takes the investigation into his own hands and uncovers secrets that lead him far from home and change his life forever.
Boldly reinterpreting the multiple award-winning bestselling novel, this record-breaking stage phenomenon is filled with heart, humour and wonder.
• Winner of a record seven Olivier Awards, including Best New Play 2013
• Winner 2015 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play
• Winner 2015 Tony Award for Best Play
“a play that works on every level — crowd-pleasing, eye-opening, life-affirming and unmissable.” – Richard Zoglin, TIME Magazine
“a thing of unbridled wonder…. a show that’s as extraordinary as its hero.” – Andrzej Lukowski, TimeOut
Early Bird ticket prices are available for Mon-Thu and matinee performances in the first two weeks of the season.
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Bernard St, Addington, Christchurch . Off the Hagley Park end of Lincoln Road in Addington.
Limited free on-site parking is available during performances. There is also ample street parking nearby for evening performances. Please allow plenty of time if parking is a priority.
Box Office: Phone 963 0870
• Monday-Thursday: 9am-8.15pm
• Friday: 9am-10.30pm
• Saturday: 10am-10.30pm
• Sunday: CLOSED
• Door sales available unless sold out. Check website for availability.
Snack Bar Opening Hours:
• Monday & Thursday: 5.30pm – 9:30pm
• Tuesday & Wednesday: 6.30pm – 10:30pm
• Friday & Saturday: 6.30pm – 10:30pm
Bar Opening Hours:
• Monday & Thursday: 5.30pm – 9:30pm
• Tuesday & Wednesday: 6.30pm – 10:30pm
• Friday & Saturday: 6.30pm – 12:45am
• Latecomers may not be admitted to performances.
• Cellphones, pagers, cameras and recording devices must not be used inside the theatre during performances.
• Beverages and snacks purchased from the bar or snack bar can be taken into performances so long as consumption does not interfere with the enjoyment of other patrons.
• If you have Gift Vouchers or Complimentary Vouchers to redeem, please call the box office on 963-0870.
Hearing Loop available, wheelchair access available throughout theatre and disabled parking by main entrance.
For 16 years we’ve been locked outside my firstborn son’s head. Sam is a boy, fast becoming a man, whose sense of the world around him is defined by his own fixed point on the autism spectrum. He can rarely conceive what’s expected of him in social situations, and by that I mean a setting as routine as a family dinner with his parents and his two brothers—let alone an environment as demanding as high school, or the adult world.
But for two hours recently, we got a glimpse at some of the chaos that might be raging in there, thanks to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time—the innovative theatrical adaptation of Mark Haddon’s 2003 best-selling novel of the same name. The play, which was recently nominated for six Tony Awards*, came to New York from London’s National Theatre in a production directed by Marianne Elliott (War Horse). It takes an immersive approach to communicating the internal state of its hero, Christopher. Like Sam, Christopher is an autistic teenage boy who’s often perplexed by the day-to-day demands of human interaction.
“People often say, ‘Be quiet,’ but they don’t tell you how long to be quiet for,” says Christopher at one point, attempting to explain the confusion he feels almost constantly. The show isn’t without humour in the way it portrays the poignancy of the missed emotional connections between Christopher and his family and the people he meets, and the line drew a healthy laugh from the audience. But for me and Sam’s mom, it lingered.
Unlike Christopher, who is rather on the voluble side for a kid on the spectrum—Haddon has stated that his book is more about cognitive differences than “any specific disorder”—Sam has been diagnosed not just with Asperger’s but also “selective mutism,” an extension of his social anxiety. If he’s uncomfortable, he gets stuck, and he won’t, or can’t, talk. When he was overwhelmed at a new school full of high-functioning extroverts two years ago, his shutdown lasted all summer.
Haddon’s book surely wouldn’t have worked with an uncommunicative main character, and it goes without saying that a theatrical adaptation would have been out of the question. Even so, for years the author considered his beloved book to be “unadaptable.” But the ingenious storytelling methods devised by Elliott, playwright Simon Stephens, and their choreographers and designers are the primary reason the show succeeds. Christopher’s anxious chatter isn’t the only window into his mind—the design elements illuminate his turmoil, too.
Long before he was diagnosed, we knew something was different about Sam. On a trip to Los Angeles just after the birth of our second son—Sam was a year and nine months old—we were stunned as we sat in a parking lot and he blurted out the letters on the sign in front of us: “S-T-A-R-B-U-C-K-S.” We had no idea he’d already learned the alphabet. Soon, to soothe himself to sleep, he was reciting the alphabet forward and backward. As he grew older, Sam’s stony facial expression, so characteristic to the condition, would only rarely betray any kind of emotion. But we’ve come to understand that’s a hard mask for his inner turbulence.
Seeing it imagined onstage was a revelation. Curious Incident’s creative use of visual elements is just one way the show communicates how many people on the autism spectrum experience seeing the world. Temple Grandin, the animal behaviourist and autism activist, has written extensively about her own visual thinking, stating, “My mind is similar to an Internet search engine that searches for photographs.” And Christopher might agree. “I see everything,” he says in the play.
Most people gazing out the window on a train, he states, will acknowledge the general view: the grass, the cows, the fence. Then their mind will begin to wander. But if Christopher is on that train, he’ll calculate the whole scene: 19 cows—15 of them black and white, four brown and white. Thirty-one houses visible in the village in the distance, plus one church without a spire. The landscape is highest to the northeast. It’s exhausting just hearing him describe it, but it gives some sense of what it must be like to be so attuned to minute details.
The moments in the show that focused on the parents’ frustrations were all too familiar for us. Ed, Christopher’s well-meaning, working-class dad, whips painfully between tenderness toward his child and fist-clenching fury over his inability to help him navigate the world. Ed and his estranged wife, Judy, have become trapped by their own sense of discouragement, and find it hard to imagine a more hopeful future for themselves and for Christopher.
We’ve been there—we’re forever backtracking there, it seems—with Sam. But we left the show buoyed, at least for the night. The show ends on an up note (spoiler alert): Christopher celebrates, in his own curious way, his successes.
“Does that mean I can do anything?” Christopher asks.
For the parents of a child on the spectrum, the true answer might not be the one we want. But it’s our continuing job to help Sam understand his own mind. As much as we’ve struggled, seeing such an inspired interpretation of my son’s baffling affliction gave us the gift of a necessary reminder: Sam, like Christopher, is the one trying to find his bearings at the centre of his own curious world.
From “The Play That Took Me Inside My Autistic Son’s Head” by James Sullivan
The Atlantic, April 15, 2015
* Since this article was published the play won five Tony Awards: Best Play, Best Director, Best Leading Actor in a Play, Best Scenic Design and Best Lighting Design.