The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
For anyone who has had the pleasure of reading Mark Haddon’s book, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, you would be forgiven for wondering how on earth such a singular work could be translated into a stage production which has enjoyed quite the level of success and critical acclaim that it has. The book is an intensely personal, first person tale of 15-year old Christopher John Francis Boone who is on a mission to solve the mystery of the murder of his neighbour’s dog. Gifted and talented at mathematics, Christopher lives with what we understand to be Asperger’s syndrome. Aware of the delicacies of the issues at hand and genuinely unsure as to how it was to be approached, it was with a little trepidation that I watched the curtain’s rise.
It has got to be said that the production was nothing short of awe-inspiring. Scott Reid’s performance as Christopher Boone was as impressive as it was humbling as he offers us a glimpse into the workings of our unconventional hero’s mind. There is so much at stake when tackling issues such as mental health but what was so refreshing was that it was handled with as much honesty, lightness and crucially, the good humour that it deserves.
The Curious Incident (adapted by Simon Stephens and directed by Marianne Elliott) is a very physical play, a task, which the ensemble was up to and delivered on with (what looked like) ease. It was often hard to forget that we were not, in fact, watching an interpretative dance troupe. This, when combined with the highly technical lighting and sound design, had a particularly powerful effect. Indeed, the lyrical and expressive nature of the first half of the play grows and develops up to and beyond the point of discomfort, making for highly emotional viewing. Emerging from such a cathartic sensory overload we can only admire and respect our young hero all the more as he makes his journey.
The representation of family relationships was also extremely touching and we cannot help but develop a particular fondness for Christopher’s Dad, Ed (David Michaels) in whose performance we saw the shadow cast by 15 years of testing parenting. My only wish would have been a touch more development to the plot in the final third, which wound up very quickly and was at times, somewhat overwhelmed by the high-octane, technical side of the production.
Nonetheless, The Curious Incident is and undoubtedly will remain an incredibly important theatre classic, to be performed for many years to come. It was, truly, a piece of our time.