Theatre review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (4 stars)

Theatre review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

credit: Brinkhoff Mögenberg

Simon Stephens' adaptation makes Mark Haddon's novel sing in the touring National Theatre hit

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.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

  • Directed by: Scott Graham, Steven Hoggett, Marianne Elliott
  • Written by: Mark Haddon (book), Simon Stephens (adapt)

Simon Stephens's adaptation of the darkly humorous book by Mark Haddon presented by National Theatre. When 15-year-old Christopher discovers the dead body of his neighbour Mrs Shears' dog he starts investigating.

Comments

1. Christine Gregory5 Aug 2015, 1:44pm Report

Saw the Curious Incident at the Bristol Hippodrome last night. Totally brilliant performance, both in terms of the outstanding acting (how on earth did he learn all those lines?!) and the highly innovative set. Best thing I've seen on a stage in ages.

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