Thursday, 16 June 2016

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, West End ★★★★★

Just like three years ago, when I first saw the National Theatre’s production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, I had a warm fuzzy feeling as I left the Gielgud Theatre last night. It was just as inquisitive, visually stimulating and theatrical as I recall. Back then it was staged at West End’s Apollo Theatre and suffered from its stage ceiling collapsing which meant that the show was absent from the West End for a few months, yet it soon returned, in a new location.

Since 2013, the production has gained international recognition and continues to pull in new audiences. Writer, Simon Stephen adapted Mark Haddon’s acclaimed novel for the stage (now used in the classroom as a children’s textbook), which blew both West End and Broadway away; last year it won five Tony Awards including Best Play and Best Director.

The show itself has so many things to love about it. Firstly, its lead character - the socially awkward 15-year-old with behavioral issues - Christopher Boone is something out of the ordinary and I don’t mean that to highlight his mental disability, in this case Asperger Syndrome, but that it pinpoints the difficulty endured by those who can't interact or engage with others, who detest human touch and physically lash out when stuck in an uncomfortable situation. Often the actor who plays Christopher has a tough challenge, remembering line after line of theorems and algebraic formulas whilst pacing fast up and around the stage (literally!) – it takes real courage and skill to play the role.

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the original Christopher played by Luke Treadaway. He was a wonder to watch and truly encapsulated the attributes of Christopher’s peculiar personality and wild imagination. Sîon Daniel Young is the most current version of Christopher who also provides a memorable performance, bringing the human story much closer to the audience. Both brilliant actors, there is no set way of showcasing the traits of a person with Asperger Syndrome, and I doubt this was their intention, nor the director’s, Marianne Eliott.

The second reason I love this production is that the staging is utilised to the T. It lights up like stars, beams at you in emergency red and has layers of hidden cupboards and doors filled with LEGO models and other surprises. Given the logical and systematic mind of Christopher, the stage is fashioned as a place to see Christopher’s thought process as he identifies who killed Wellington, the neighbour’s pet dog. With dreams of becoming a scientist, and - perhaps - travelling up to space and in it, Christopher’s mathematical ability is explored - it is a mirror of today’s university departments that have a high concentration of mathematicians with Asperger’s; it is associated with their brain's capacity to focus on a problem and cancel everything else out.

Adrian Sutton’s music – a whiff of electronica and moving themes – also sets the tone for a play not solely based on a dog murder mystery. Stephens is known for writing stage works of a macabre and realistic nature, as I've seen in his other work, Wastwater (click here to read the review), and in Christopher's case it’s a slightly abusive, jilted father and a depressed mother who left him as a result of the hardship of raising him. Without giving any spoilers away, it’s a real human story that has its poignant moments that are lifted with some dark humour, smart stagecraft, and ambient lighting.

My third reason for admiring the show is the ensemble, of up to nine cast members. On top of being skillful and energetic, they are a significant force that pushes Christopher through his mathematical adventures and dog investigation. Together they play over thirty characters whilst physically carrying Christopher on their backs, holding him up to the wall and turning him around in mid-air. Overall, it’s a fast-paced, intelligent and entertaining show that will remind audiences' of the chaotic journey commuters have to take on the TFL, and somehow come out alive once they have reached their destination.

To book tickets, please click here for Box - It is showing until February 2017.

For more information on the production, please click here

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