Writer: Simon Stephens, based on the novel by Mark Haddon
Director: Marianne Elliott
Reviewer: Natasha Hegarty
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time is based on the bestselling novel by Mark Haddon and has won a bucket-load of awards, and with good reason. It follows Christopher Boone (Scott Reid), a 15-year-old boy with an extraordinary mind. After discovering his neighbour’s dog Wellington has been killed with a garden fork, he decides to do some detecting to find out who did it. It is in equal parts funny and heart-breaking as Christopher discovers the world around him. The story unfolds in the form of Christopher’s book on his detective work, creating an ingenious ‘play within a play’ structure that works beautifully.
Christopher has Asperger’s Syndrome and struggles out of his comfort zone. Obsessed with numbers, mathematics grounds him in a world which very much overwhelms him. His relationship with his father (David Michaels) is at times fraught as he, Christopher’s father, struggles to raise his complex son whose mind he doesn’t really understand. Despite loving him unconditionally and believing he is doing what is best for him, he lets him down in a huge way.
Adaptor Simon Stephens and director Marianne Elliot do something quite unique with the show as they by allow the audience into Christopher’s brain to understand exactly how he’s feeling.
The standout performance of the show is Reid as the leading character who is simply phenomenal to watch. He’s extremely engaging and completely draws you into his character’s confusing and stressful world, movingly capturing his bravery and spirit with simple nuances rather than with over the top gestures. Among the other principal characters, Lucianne McEvoy stands out as Christopher’s teacher Siobhan who also acts as narrator and Christopher’s confidante. Michaels also impresses as Christopher’s father, and he and Reid have a superb connection on stage.
The physical aspects of the show, choreographed by Frantic Assembly’s Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett, are exemplary, for example, they show the busy nature of the London Underground perfectly by exposing the claustrophobic feelings Christopher experiences when in crowds of people; it is one of the most impressive sections of the production.
Bunny Christie’s incredible set design is mesmerizing: it’s a three sided box which looks like a mathematical grid that frequently explodes with projections of numbers, calculations and constellations, displaying the wonderful workings of Christopher’s mind. It is lit with bright LED and strip lights that flash at moments when Christopher feels most anxious to the beat of loud, booming music. Although this is maybe a bit too loud on occasion drowning out some of the lines, it’s unclear as to whether that’s the intention.
Every single aspect of this production leans towards ensuring the audience feels exactly what the central character does, and it’s clever without being over the top or silly.
As the play comes to a close, there’s a mathematical encore in which Christopher explains exactly how he solved a question on Pythagoras’ theorem. For many people who don’t find mathematics all that interesting, it doesn’t matter in the slightest whether you find mathematics interesting, Christopher does such an impressive job that everyone is on their feet.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time is one of those rare pieces of theatre that stays in your heart for long after the curtain closes. Visually, it really cannot be rivalled. However, it’s Haddon and Stephen’s creation of such an incredible character and Reid’s sheer talent that really makes it a delight. It is simply a privilege to watch and a truly unmissable piece of theatre.
Runs until 16 September 2017 and on tour | Image: Brinkhoff Mogenburg