adapted by Carl Miller from the book by Siobhan Dowd.

Unicorn Theatre (Weston Theatre) 147 Tooley Street SE1 2HZ To 18 April 2010,
1.30pm Thu, Sat, Sun.
7pm Wed-Sat.
Audio-described 17 April 1.30pm.
Runs 1hr 55min One interval.

TICKETS: 020 7645 0560
Review: Timothy Ramsden 13 April.

New variant on the ‘locked-room’ mystery also unlocks secrets of the mind.
For all its strong qualities, the late Siobhan Dowd’s novel for young people isn’t an automatic candidate for the stage. For a start, though it lives up to its title in plot terms, the disappearance of a boy while riding on the London Eye isn’t what the book’s really about. What it is about is the story’s narrator, young Ted, who is learning to cope with his particular brand of autism.

There, I’ve spoilt it. Not by giving the game away, but by allowing the suggestion that this is a worthy ‘issue’ book. It isn’t. And Carl Miller’s script is no more explicit than Dowd’s references to Ted’s particular way of thinking. Which turns up trumps in its focus on facts and their logical assembly.

Ted finds metaphor confusing, so doesn’t like theatre. Yet Miller uses the novel’s few theatre references – Ted, hoping to be a meteorologist, likes The Tempest – to provide his beginning, middle and end. Less happy is the incorporation of Tempest extracts; they’re thematically apt enough, but are likely to mean little to the 10+ audience members who don’t know the play (though Unicorn has a Tempest for 9+ opening in May, for those wanting to find out more).

Vitally, Miller cuts down on Ted’s self-reflections, while editing plot details (the 6 years since the novel already allow digital cameras to speed things along). And Rosamund Hutt’s production, with figure sometimes clambering perilously over Anna Fleischle’s set (its cityscape and heights capturing the spirit of the London Eye and one character’s crucial love of tall buildings), keeps the action and characters moving enough to please the Playstation generation.

John Cockerill’s Ted, rightly allowing no scintilla of a suggestion his character needs any patronising, creates an intelligence that articulates his perceptions, operating with self-awareness through his mental predisposition, and its physical corollary of a hand shaking uncontrollably in moments of tension. His relationship with his sister Kat – a sizzlingly energetic Amaka Okafor – is beautifully realised amid a sea of half-comprehending, semi-impatient adults.

Whatever changes they’ve made, Miller, Hutt and Cockerill display the book’s heart admirably.

Gloria: Samantha Adams.
Ted: John Cockerill.
Faith: Julie Hewlett.
Salim: Liam Lane.
Rashid/Marcus: Ery Nzaramba.
Kat: Amaka Okafor.
Ben/Christy: Rupert Wickham.

Director: Rosamund Hutt.
Designer/Costume: Anna Fleischle.
Lighting: Mark Dymock based on original designs by Lucy Carter.
Music: Arun Ghosh.
Movement: Dan O’Neill.
Voice coach: Jan Hatdn Rowles.
Assistant designer: Ali McDowall.

2010-04-14 10:55:30

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