Tag Archives: David Michaels

Curiosity kills the Dog

THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHTTIME

Birmingham Hippodrome, Tuesday 4th July, 2017

 

It’s my third time seeing this marvellous production and I can reveal the piece loses none of its power to charm or to move even if you know what’s coming.  The death of a neighbour’s dog sets 15-year-old Christopher on a quest to find out whodunit.  He’s a ‘special’ boy, with Asperger’s, and we view events and the world at large, through his eyes.  To this end, the set is a box, a blackboard box with a grid that lights up like the chalk lines Christopher draws on the floor.  The walls are also versatile, containing doors, drawers and cupboards for handy prop-grabbing.  Cast members become pieces of furniture and white blocks do the rest.  It’s a mish-mash of physical and narrative theatre and it works like a dream.  Simon Stephens’s masterly adaptation does full justice to Mark Haddon’s bestselling novel.

Scott Reid is marvellous as the intrepid Christopher, whose literal take on things provides humour for us and confusion for him.  It’s not just the characterisation, which convinces utterly, but it’s also the movement skills that impress.  He’s the focal point of the production but around him the rest of the cast is equally good.

Lucianne McEvoy is Christopher’s mentor and our narrator, Siobhan, providing clarity to the action, reading from Christopher’s account while scenes are flashily reconstructed.  David Michaels is Ed, Christopher’s long-suffering Dad – love pours out of him in various forms: anger and frustration being chief among them!  Mum Judy (Emma Beattie) takes a pragmatic approach – emotions run high and have to be contained for Christopher’s peace of mind.  Beattie and Michaels both bring emotional depth that Christopher cannot – and we glimpse what it must be like to care for someone like Christopher as well as gaining awareness and understanding of the way he is.

Marianne Elliott’s flashy and clever production is rooted in humanity – we see how Christopher is treated by figures in authority and unsuspecting members of the public – and while there is humour in these exchanges it is never at Christopher’s expense.  And we begin to think Christopher has a point, that people should say what they mean instead of dressing their words in euphemism and metaphor.   Elliott’s use of non-naturalistic techniques serves to emphasise Christopher’s humanness.   Beneath the unconventional methods of address, there is someone here with whom we can empathise.  The show, therefore, is a metaphor for the character!

Endlessly inventive, superbly executed, funny, gripping and touching, this is a play to savour and a production to enjoy.  Christopher’s journey (the mystery is solved by the interval) is more than his wish to solve the crime, and we root for him as he tries to understand life and pass his A-Level in Maths.  It’s a crowd-pleaser, accessible and enlightening, showing that just as there are other ways of perceiving the world, there are other forms of theatre.

How gratifying to see the Hippodrome packed out for something other than a musical!

Scott Reid (Christopher Boone) and ensemble, NT Curious Incident Tour 2017. Photo by BrinkhoffMögenburg-min

Scott Reid and ensemble (Photo: BrinkhoffMogenburg-min)

 


Court In The Act

ROUGH JUSTICE
Malvern Theatres, Monday 1st October, 2012

Contrary to what you might think, I have never set foot in a court room. All I know about what goes on I got from the telly (favouring John Deed over Judge Judy). Courtroom drama is a genre of its own and with it come certain pitfalls.

They’re all a bit static. With the judge on the bench, the defendant in the dock and the witness on the stand – there’s very little in the way of action and I always wonder if the story would be better as a radio play.
With not much happening, the case on trial had better be intriguing and the defendant compelling, to engage the audience and hold its attention. Terence Frisby’s 1994 play has not only a murder trial that poses a moral dilemma but also much to say in support of the jury system, a cornerstone of our democracy.

Tom Conti plays James Highwood, a kind of domesticated Jeremy Paxman figure who turns himself in for the suffocation of his infant son. He is the kind of self-inflated, smug kind of boor to insist on representing himself. As details of the crime come out – some of them horrific – Conti achieves the impossible: we begin to sympathise and to understand. There are a couple of opportunities for Conti to break down in a monologue, dropping his urbane smarm and revealing the nightmare and devastating emotional stress he has experienced.

Court room scenes are interspersed with moments in his cell, in confab with his lawyer (David Michaels) and his estranged and much younger wife (Carol Starks). Here, further details emerge and game-changing revelations are blurted out – in one superb speech, Starks raises the acting stakes considerably – I don’t think Conti quite matches her intensity and emotional truth after it.

All the procedure and ritual are here. The cut-and-thrust verbal sparring of prosecution and defence, scoring points off each other. The stern but avuncular judge (Royce Mills bringing some gravitas and authenticity to the proceedings) The expert witnesses… Elizabeth Payne is very strong as the prosecuting barrister, Margaret Casely – more than a match for Conti’s opinionated media pundit.

It cracks along at quite a pace, and there are flashes of wit and humour to alleviate the agonising and the moralising. Director James Larkin juggles these conflicting moods very well but I could have done without the houselights glaring in my face every time the judge addressed the jury. I think turning to the ‘fourth wall’ would be enough.

Enjoyable and thought-provoking, Rough Justice is definitely worth seeing, providing exactly what you expect from a courtroom drama. It is a genre I can only visit as a rare treat, however. I don’t think I could sit through another for some time.