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!