Venue: Mayflower Theatre Southampton
A UK Tour, with the National Theatre attached to it, automatically grabs my attention. Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night-Time has done fantastically well in the West End and across the pond over on Broadway, so there was a high bar set in my eyes and I believe it smashed it!
5 years ago I was introduced to Mark Haddon’s ‘Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night-Time’ in an A Level English class and was astounded and gripped by the story of Christopher Boone.
Now for those of you who haven’t spent a whole year of your life covering the pages of the novel in highlighter pen then the plot may be a mystery to you. Allow me to explain: The story follows Christopher, who has Asperger’s syndrome, playing detective when his neighbour’s dog is gruesomely murdered in the garden. The find leads him to make chat with ‘strangers’, make discoveries about his family and learns about bravery and honesty, all set in an academic mind full of maths equations and science.
Simon Stephens has done a stellar job translating the book onto the stage and with the help of director Marianne Elliot created the perfect all round visual production.
Chris Ashby acted phenomenally as Christopher, deserving the standing ovation he received, breaking the fourth wall and establishing a connection with the audience almost immediately. There was a real warmth and depth to his performance and his chemistry with Geraldine Alexander as the teacher was heart-warming. Frantic assembly’s movement direction added heaps to the performance and contributed seamlessly to the production.
Special note should be made to Bunny Christie’s visually stunning set design; admirably combining the simple set with more complex graphs, boxes and equations. The lighting and the video designs were spectacular and all together it perfectly encompassed the hectic goings on in Christopher’s head. The most seamless merging of sound, lighting, acting and visuals was during the train station sequence; all the cast and creatives excelled in this scene and was a standout for me.
You can certainly expect the unexpected in this production. Cast members lit only by torchlight, complicated math equation explanations, train sets, cast members in the audience and real life animals (and yes I did spend a lot of time checking Toby the rat was still inside his cage and wasn’t planning a great escape!)
Many adaptations are pitted up against their original version and most of the time they can fail to live up to people’s high expectations, but in this instance I have to say I preferred the play to the book. The hugely visual elements and staging heighten the plot and transported the audience into Christopher’s mind, something also done very well in the book.
Just remember Christopher never lies, so don’t be in a rush to leave your seats after the curtain call…
Curious Incident the tour continues onto Cornwall, Oxford and Liverpool in July and concludes its run in November 2015.