Writer: Simon Stephens, based on the novel by Mark Haddon
Director: Marianne Elliott
Reviewer: Scott Matthewman
There is a concern at times that when a West End show embarks on a national tour, that corners will be cut, budgets will be slashed, that audiences outside London will be expected to accept a cut price deal. Thankfully, the National Theatre’s tour of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time takes no such liberties, ensuring that audiences around the UK will witness one of the most enthralling, magically enchanting and emotionally charged pieces of theatre, executed to an impeccable standard.
Mark Haddon’s original novel was written from the perspective of Christopher, a teenager with behavioural difficulties that pointed at his being somewhere on the autistic spectrum, although such a diagnosis was never made explicit. The power of the novel is that it allows, even demands, us to see the world through Christopher’s eyes, and appreciate the difficulties he has in connecting with people around him. Simon Stephen’s script manages to maintain that intimacy in a theatrical setting. Far more than when reading, a theatrical audience is on the outside, looking in: but under Marianne Elliott’s directorial gaze, and with stunning set and lighting design (from Bunny Christie and Paule Constable) the environment becomes an extension of Christopher’s perceptions.
As Christopher, Joshua Jenkins is engaging and endearing. As the teenager begins investigating who may have killed his neighbour’s dog, and as his investigations start to expose the fractures in his own family’s relationships, the complexities of his character feel genuine and unforced in Jenkins’s hands. Whether deriving humour from Christopher’s blunt truthfulness, imagining being an astronaut (one sequence among many brought lyrically to life by superb movement direction from Frantic Assembly) or lashing out in rage when he cannot cope with the fierce emotions running through his head, Jenkins is on superb form. So too are the adults around him, most notably his supportive teacher Siobhan (Geraldine Alexander), who doubles as a narrator of Christopher’s innermost thoughts as she reads the book he writes as the play progresses. Christopher’s parents, played by Stuart Laing and Gina Isaac, capture the difficulties inherent in loving a son who will not, and cannot, let them hold him.
With dialogue that sparkles as brightly as the illuminated set, and a central character that is as emotionally engaging as he is unable to comprehend such things, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time can honestly lay claim to being one of the best pieces of theatre of recent years, and this touring production more than does the work justice.
Photo: Brinkhoff Mögenberg | Runs until: 21st April