Theatre review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
Simon Stephens' adaptation makes Mark Haddon's novel sing in the touring National Theatre hit
This article is from 2015.
Since its publication 12 years ago, Mark Haddon’s debut novel has become one of the best-loved modern works in publishing. And Simon Stephens’ stage adaptation – which first premiered at London’s National Theatre in 2012 – is reverent towards its source material, creating a play that, with the help of Marianne Elliott’s exquisite direction, sparks and soars in its telling.
Christopher Boone – here played delightfully by Joshua Jenkins – discovers Wellington, his neighbour’s dog, dead with a garden fork stuck in his body. He sets out to find out who killed Wellington; but since Christopher is on the autistic spectrum, conducting his investigation and talking to strangers proves difficult. Yet, he handles it with aplomb – and uncovers some startling secrets on the way.
Stephens has said that he wanted to recreate the feeling of being in Christopher’s mind, and the show certainly succeeds. That’s partly due to Jenkins’ wonderful performance; but Bunny Christie and Finn Ross’ set and video design almost steals the limelight. The stage is boxed in by tall grid-patterned walls that illuminate spectacularly. In part, it resembles graph paper brought to life; but it also looks like synapses in the nervous system. Both are appropriate, given Christopher’s love of maths and his struggle to deal with his disorder.
The multi-part playing ensemble cast are uniformly great; Stuart Laing is particularly impressive as Christopher’s father. There’s a blissful fluidity to their movements too, and Jenkins’ movements are especially poetic.
A couple of moments don’t quite hit the mark; the self-conscious framing of the performance as a play based on Christopher’s writings, for example, feels jarring. But overall The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time is a wonderful show, with a positive energy that will charm theatre-goers young and old.
Reviewed at Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Tue 28 Apr.