Writer: Simon Stephens,
Adaptor: Mark Haddon
Director: Marianne Elliott
Ten years after the award-winning premiere of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at the National Theatre, playwright Simon Stephens’ adaptation of the best-selling novel by Mark Haddon has embarked on a new tour and remains a dazzling and unmissable piece of theatre.
Prior knowledge of the novel is not required as the audience are immediately immersed in the world of Christopher Boone, a neurodiverse 15-year-old with an extraordinary gift for mathematics, a passion for Space and a preference for being alone. When Christopher finds his neighbours dog Wellington speared by a garden fork, he decides to turn detective and sets out on a mission to track down the killer. Solving the case only spills more secrets, however, and Christopher embarks on a life-changing journey in which he is forced to bravely confront his fears and push himself beyond his perceived limits.
David Breeds gives a superb performance in the central role; he is endearing and engaging throughout and however Christopher feels – whether it is anxiety, fear, frustration, determination or joy – there is a depth to Breeds’ performance that means the audience feel it too. This, combined with the inventive production design, ensures it is easy to see the world through Christopher’s eyes.
Bunny Christie’s vast three-sided set is a spectacle in itself, combined with lighting and video design from Paule Constable and Finn Ross respectively, it brings Christopher’s world to life around him; whether that is through physical props strategically hidden behind panels, vivid use of colour when emotions are heightened or video projections that transport us everywhere from a suburban street to a train, from a tube station to outer space. Movement directors Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett add to this even further, with the use of tightly choreographed physical sequences, where Breeds is carried aloft or swept across the stage with apparent effortlessness. It all combines to create an entirely unique visual landscape for the show, which feels as fresh and imaginative now as it did ten years ago.
The whole ensemble work together seamlessly and there are terrific performances from Kate Kordel and Tom Peters as Christopher’s parents, who convey perfectly the difficulties balancing the love they have for their son with the frustration and anguish they can feel from the reality of caring for him. As his teacher Siobhan, Rebecca Root is a sensitive and empathetic confidante to Christopher and a likeable narrator for the audience, occasionally breaking the fourth wall to make humourous observations about the ‘play-within-a-play’ format.
It is a hugely talented and wonderfully diverse ensemble cast. Breeds will share the role of Christopher throughout the tour with Connor Curren, after the National Theatre specifically sought neurodivergent actors for the role. It seems clear that effort has been made to ensure diverse and authentic representation across the cast in a way that perhaps would not have been the case when the play first debuted.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time remains a vibrant and inventive production with a script that is at times unflinching and unsentimental in its depiction of parenting and family life, whilst simultaneously capturing the humour, warmth and compassion of the human spirit. As Christopher travels further than he has gone before, the production also takes the audience on a captivating theatrical journey from the intriguing opening ‘whodunnit’ to the joyful surprise ending.
Runs until 12th March 2022 and continues on UK Tour