Writer: Simon Stephens based on the novel by Mark Haddon
Director: Marianne Elliott
Reviewer: Tom Ralphs
A boy with Asperger Syndrome finds his neighbour’s dog dead with a fork through it. He embarks on a quest to find out who killed him and ends up making a solo trip to London in search of the mother he thought was dead. From such unlikely material has grown an award-winning, best-selling book and an award-winning stage play. But the success of the play is not merely down to the success of the book. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is that rare thing, a production where meticulous attention has been paid to every last detail, and script, acting, choreography, music, sound design, lighting and stage design all work at optimum level with no weak links.
By presenting the story as a play within a play, Simon Stephen’s script keeps the internal monologues of Christopher Boone, the boy, but has them voiced by his teacher. This means we get the insight into Christopher’s mind that was one of the book’s major strengths but also see Christopher living out the events that are described, bringing them to vivid life. The lighting and video design of Paule Constable and Finn Ross show us the world from within Christopher’s mind. As he maps out his route to Swindon station, his logic plays out on a grid behind him, every thought instantly displayed with another line on the map. As he deals with the horrors of London Underground, the lights, images and sounds are how he perceives what he is seeing, making it impossible not to share his panic and dread.
The choreography and movement provided by Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett for Frantic Assembly make the progression between scenes and locations seamless, even as cast members take on multiple roles. Adding to the visual impact, it isn’t just about getting cast and scenes from A to B, there is a sense of purpose and an extra layer of meaning adding through it.
Bunny Christie’s stage design is equally versatile. The backdrop looks like a mathematical grid, numbers often explode out of it and calculations and formulae are projected onto it, but it then becomes a place where objects are pulled from cupboards and drawers, as Christopher assembles his own model railway and town, adding functionality to its aesthetic appeal.
All of this means that to realise the level of ambition in every aspect of the production, the cast has to be on top of their game throughout. They are, delivering excellent performances both as individuals and as an ensemble, feeding off each other with fantastic levels of energy and understanding. Scott Reid as Christopher steals the show with a performance that captures his literal take on the world, showing every insecurity and uncertainty that is the result of the rest of the world not working in the way he needs it to, but every other performer is also nothing less than exceptional.
In short, this is a brilliant and faultless production from start to finish.
Runs until 25 February 2017 | Image: Brinkhoff Mogenburg