The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Bord Gais Energy Theatre – Review
by Brian Merriman
Find out more about the production here.
Until April 30th
Duration 2 hours and 30 minutes
Mark Haddon’s 2003 best-selling book transfers beautifully to the stage in this touring production by the UK’s National Theatre. The title is taken from a Sherlock Holmes quote and there is a lot of detective work undertaken by our 15-year-old hero Christopher Boone. David Breeds as ‘Christopher’ is a youthful tour de force. He owns the stage and this production. The future of theatre is in safe hands if it is producing young talent of the calibre, precision and physicality of this young man, whose work was the unfaltering engine of a slick production and a talented cast. He deserved his standing ovation.
Director Marianne Elliott‘s imaginative and fast-paced production transforms Mark Haddon‘s best-selling novel to a new life on stage. We are reminded that ‘Christopher is different’. He has an extraordinary brain, obsessed with detail. He sees everything with a mathematical grasp of how life is constructed and presented. He masters complexity, yet struggles to cope with the barriers of everyday life. He doesn’t go outdoors much and never alone. He sticks to his neighbourhood. Even when he needs a hug, he detests being touched, which is an added burden for those who love him. He is safe within his boundaries until something curious happens. A dog (Wellington) is found dead and thus unfolds a series of adventures, mysteries, secrets and courageous acts.
Bizarrely, ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ has been challenged and banned in several schools, primarily due to complaints regarding “profane” language. Some parents have also requested the book be removed from school reading lists because they believe it promotes atheism! ‘Christopher’ has the capacity to see everything and clearly, these complainants fail to see or grasp the illumination and celebration of difference, in the capable hands of the diverse cast and creative team.
The production values and delivery are elaborate for a touring company. The lighting, effects and sound design are expertly delivered and as impressive as the multi-media set. ‘Christopher’ is ably supported by his parents, who have struggles of their own. They both know how to ‘handle’ their son’s condition, but as ‘Christopher’s curious mind challenges this control, most settled things unravel. He is growing up.
The opening mystery is solved by the end of Act One. So, what is expected in the second half? Well, it is well worth waiting for. If ‘Christopher’ surprises in Act One (the model scale building of London is amazing) he surpasses all our expectations in the adventures of the second half, ably abetted by his pet rat Toby.
The talented and coordinated ensemble moves with great precision and physicality. Their varied cameos ensure the plot zips along. ‘Christopher’s well-being is in the skilled and safe hands of Siobhan (Rebecca Root), and his fractured parents Ed (Tom Peters) and Judy (Sophie Stone). This story is way more than the life of a 15-year-old. It shines a light on all those around him, with frankness, honesty and courage. The impact of the behaviour of others is a constant.
The use of the auditorium in the staging was ‘old-hat’ that stood out as unnecessary as the high-tech onstage action worked so well.
There were no programmes available but a credit board in the foyer, surprisingly printed in yellow and white on pale blue – definitely not a nod to the diversity of needs celebrated on stage.
Though almost two decades old, ‘The Curious Incident…’ is a revealing story, perhaps because in the interim (since 2003), there is more visibility, learning and space to celebrate ‘difference’. This fine production understands that and as a result, will likely still be teaching us in another decade.
But this night-time ‘incident’ remains Mr Breed’s triumph. His charm and skill poured over the front of the stage and carried us all on a journey we needed to take. Don’t rush home… the promised epilogue is yet another wonderful piece of theatre!