The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, the acclaimed National Theatre production, returns to the Festival Theatre Edinburgh (last here in 2015) to a packed house once again.
This production is an adaptation of the 2003 novel by Mark Haddon (which won the Whitbread Prize), and is the story of a 15 year old boy, Christopher Boone, who one night encounters a dead dog in his neighbour's garden – the dog has been killed by someone impaling it on a garden pitch fork.
The whole story of Christopher (Scott Reid) is a bit like looking through both sides of Alice’s looking glass at the same time. Christopher is firmly into the autistic spectrum and has Asperger Syndrome, and through this carefully adapted story by Simon Stephens we get an insight not only into the world as Christopher views it, but also a reflection of our own world as seen by Christopher…the result is two very different views of the world with each viewer not sharing the same perceptions or understanding fully the rules of the other’s world at times.
Christopher takes it upon himself to investigate the killing of the dog, and despite the best efforts of his father Ed (David Michaels) to deter him, decides to write a book about his case (he likes Sherlock Holmes stories). In the course of his investigation, Christopher uncovers truths about his neighbours, their relationships with one another, and his mother Judy (Emma Beattie)…information that overloads him and changes his life forever. Much of the driving narrative that this work depends on comes from Christopher’s teacher at a special needs school that he attends – Siobhan (Lucianne McEvoy).
Christopher’s world is to us complex, but to him very simple and ordered. He loves mathematics (is planning to take an A level in maths soon), astronomy, the colour red, and his pet rat Toby. He does not tell lies at all and finds what people say confusing – particularly their usage of metaphors.
Through an excellent cast and a wonderful story, we get to walk for a little while in Christopher’s footsteps and see his and our world through his eyes. Much of the success of this is down to Scott Reid, who as Christopher pulls you right into his world, and unless this is done from the first few moments of dialogue, I don’t think this work can recover. Both David Michaels and Emma Beattie are excellent as Christopher’s parents as we get insights into how coping with the special needs of Christopher has changed their lives and the strains that has put both them and their relationship under over the years.
Lucianne McEvoy as Siobhan is an ever constant anchor in Christopher’s world offering him help and advice not only when physically there but also an advisor in his thoughts.
What really makes this production unique though is that the stage itself is to a large degree a representation of Christopher’s inner thoughts, and the use of all three sides of the stage broken up into a multi squared grid representing space and time works so well here – particularly when state of the art projectors, lighting and sound systems are used to give us some idea of how different and threatening to Christopher everyday sounds and events can be. The combination of script, performers, stage and technical effects give us a story that becomes completely engrossing while at the same time letting us into the actual thoughts of Christopher..a very powerful combination.
The great scene-stealing performance tonight, and one that drew the most gasps from the audience belongs to Sandy the puppy dog close to the end. How can any human actor compete with that?
This is theatre at its best, so try to get along if you can to see this show
Anyone who wants to find out more about Autism/Asperger Syndrome might find this weblink useful
Review by Tom King