Writer: Mark Haddon
Adaptor: Simon Stephens
Director: Marianne Elliot
Reviewer: Ruth Jepson
The neighbour’s dog lays in the middle of the stage, a garden fork thrust through its back. A boy is crying over the body. Christopher Boone, 15 years, three months and two days old, decides he needs to do some detecting, and find the murderer. The resulting discoveries are both hilarious and heart breaking as Christopher discovers clues and secrets that will impact on his own life, forcing him to be very brave. All this is compounded by an unnamed but likely Autism-related condition, giving him a very individual way of looking at the world; the audience learning to think differently along with him.
To say that The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is must see theatre sounds clichéd, but it really is a must see. The way the show pulls the audience into Christopher’s brain is something rarely seen in the theatre. The set alone – a three sided box of black squares and LED lights with areas which pull out as drawers, cupboards and even a desk at one point – is a phenomenal 3D representation of Christopher’s inner logical and compartmentalisation. Throughout the show he pulls props and set piece from it, creating a massive, stage covering train track, or grabbing chalk to draw on the floor. Projection flies across the walls as we see him figuring things out, getting faster as he becomes overwhelmed, partnering with an electronic inspired musical score which is at times, thoroughly oppressive to the audience, exactly as London or being touched by a stranger is to Christopher. Designer Bunny Christie has done a perfect job, and the set is almost a character in itself. Looking at the program, the company have previously offered specific ‘relaxed’ performances with adjusted light levels and special effects for those who may struggle with the usual staging.
The standout star of the piece is obviously Scott Reid, playing Christopher himself. In the whole two and a half hour run, he only leaves the stage at the interval. The sweat drips off him as he embodies his role, switching tracks and scenes, and being flung about by the ensemble as an astronaut, a detective, or a child struggling to comprehend London Underground. The physical theatre aspects of the show contrast wonderfully with his touch embargoed relationship with his father, Ed, played by David Michaels, who portrays a very human representation of a parent to a child with Autism, one he may not understand fully, but loves nevertheless. Also of note is Lucianne McEvoy as teacher Siobhan, a champion and sometimes a moral compass for Christopher, who plays her part with compassion and enthusiasm.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is one of those magical theatre pieces which don’t come along very often. It is a show that will take you on an emotional journey, you’ll learn a lot (especially about maths, and the acting talent of rats) and leave you with a new perspective, one that stays with you long after the final curtain.
Runs until 5 August 2017 | Image: Brinkhoff/Mögenburg