“Does Christopher seem real? Does he seem rich and layered and believable or does he feel like a lazy arrangement of words on the page?” Mark Haddon, Author
It’s not often that I leave a theatre with an overwhelming sense of joy, happiness and unparalleled zest for life, but The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is just one of those rare shows that effortlessly evokes an emotional response. Simon Stephen’s stage adaptation of Mark Haddon’s acclaimed novel, published in 2003, was recently transferred to the Gielgud Theatre from June 24, 2014, following brief stints at the Cottesloe Theatre and the Apollo Theatre.
The production lasts 2hrs and 40mins and is suitable for 11+ years, perhaps due to its abrupt nature. The narrative follows Christopher Boone, a 15-year old boy who endeavours to solve the death of his neighbour’s dog, Wellington. He portrays the defining characteristics of an exceptional maths whiz who struggles to adapt to the outside world. The play is very much centred around getting into the mind of the subject, as pencilled into the production is a narrator, shadowing as a teacher, who aims to detail Christopher’s every thought to the audience.
Siobhan, played by Sarah Woodward, eliminates every element of doubt, until we come to question her own existence, as she demonstrates superior knowledge through multiple references to the production itself. It was their relationship that proved to be the most compelling.
It was a rather intimate ensemble, consisting of approximately 11 cast members, with many undertaking multiple roles. They were always present on stage, perhaps to mimic the busyness of Christopher’s mind. Since it was introduced by Leo Kanner in 1943, it is estimated that around one in 100 are affected by autism spectrum disorders such as Asperger Syndrome; a condition which affects social communication skills, social interaction and a person’s imagination [www.autism.org.uk] Having dealt with Asperger Syndrome on a first hand basis through relatives, I will admit that the show did an incredible job to raise awareness of everyday struggles experienced.
I must mention the use of dynamic lighting, which was pivotal in the description of the plot. The stage was set and it was straight into the action as the theatre erupted in flashes of light. I was especially bowled over by the functionality of the set, especially during the intense escalator scene.
There was very little use of concrete props compared to other productions, with most of the narrative communicated through improvisation, which left adequate room for audience interpretation. The audience were rarely excluded, despite lengthy descriptions of mathematic theorems, such as Prime Numbers and Pythagoras’ Theorem. Though I’d say one of the most redeeming features of the production was its tendency to mock itself.
It would be interesting to read the book to compare, and if you haven’t already, I would strongly recommend purchasing a copy. It is by no means crucial to the understanding of the stage show however, which undoubtedly leaves the audience wanting more.
Groups of 10+ receive £10 off top-price seats for performances between Monday and Thursday. Call 0844 482 5100 for details. School Groups of 10+ receive one free teacher ticket with every 10 pupils booked Monday and Thursday. Call 0844 482 5165 for details.