Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – visually stunning

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time premiered at The National in 2012. An adaption of Mark Haddon’s now contemporary-classic novel, it’s an honest and touching portrayal of 15-year-old Christopher Boone’s experience with Asperger’s syndrome, the mysterious pitch-fork skewered dog he finds in his neighbourhood, and the search he meticulously conducts to find the murderer. One of the longest running plays on the West End, it’s now taking a final swan song tour around the UK before it closes.

The first thing to emphasise about Curious Incident is its visually stunning stage design. The Grand’s vintage proscenium arch was transformed into a glowing neon black box, the eponymous dead dog spotlighted in the centre of the stage making a dramatic opening tableau. The floor and walls were interactive projectors, diagrams appearing on the walls as Christopher struggles to work out who murdered his neighbour’s dog. As the story unfolds and Christopher starts to learn some unpleasant truths about his family he desperately tries to distract himself by recreating a train set that entertained him when he was younger. Piece by piece it appears, and when it chugs across the stage before the interval, on its way to London, it should feel gimmicky – but it’s too clever to do so.

‘It should feel gimmicky – but it’s too clever to do so’

Although it’s surely the design that makes the play stand out, it’s the strong performances that make the heart of this show. Scott Reid gives a powerfully physical performance as Christopher, darting around the stage with nervous energy and being wracked with heart-wrenching fits. David Michaels gives an emotional performance as Christopher’s father, desperately trying to hold his family together. Lucianne McEvoy as Siobhan, Christopher’s teacher, is the gentle presence needed, and her soft hesitation towards the end of the play as Christopher asks if he ‘can do anything now’ is heart-breaking.

Choreography by the ever-talented Frantic Assembly makes scenes glide together, as visually pleasing as the stage around them. There’s an amusing flirtation with the fourth wall throughout as Christopher stages his ‘play within a play’ which comes full circle when Reid comes out in character after the curtain to excitedly explain some of the tech behind the performance. It’s a touching and entertaining end to a delightful performance. Truly theatre at its best, a flawless combination of both the technical aspects and beautiful storytelling.

Heather Nash

(Image courtesy of BrinkhoffM+Âgenbur)

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