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Waterfront Festival

Theatre Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

9 February 22 words: Kevin Stanley

A gifted autistic boy turns detective when his neighbours dog is killed

When Mark Haddon’s Book ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time’ was released in 2003 it was an instant hit. Christopher Boone an intellectually gifted 15-year-old boy has a condition on the autistic spectrum - with similarities to Aspergers, high functioning autism, and savant syndrome. The book went on to win several prestigious awards and since being adapted to the stage by Simon Stephens it has been successfully toured around the UK as well as the US and around the World.

When Christopher finds that his neighbour’s dog Wellington has been killed he uses his detective abilities to uncover who committed the heinous act, whilst documenting the entire investigation in his diary. The show is presented to the audience through these daily notes, partly narrated by Siobhan, Christopher’s teacher.

The manner in which the story has been adapted to the stage is impressive, the physical set is extremely simple and sparse, but it is augmented with lighting and sound quite stunning in its complexity. Costumes are kept relatively simple, modern day dress, although there are numerous costume changes for the ensemble. Props are used inventively, whilst movement and dance is also employed for both storytelling and dramatic reasons to wonderful effect. Marianna Elliott’s direction is bold and interesting.

Curious Incident is more than just a stage play, it's partly a light and sound show. The lighting rig is based on a grid that reflects the black shape of the playing space. The entire idea of the lighting for The Curious Incident was based on things that Christopher would enjoy and the floor and three walls of the stage has light up pixels that create atmosphere throughout the play - an idea that was taken from the film The Matrix.

Connor Curren’s performance as Christopher is genuinely breathtaking, taking centre stage for over two hours, never once leaving the gaze of the audience, he delivers hundreds of lines of difficult, technical dialogue and several sections of monologue. The rest of the cast impress, especially Tom Peters as Christopher’s father, Peter, but this is without any doubt a show built around the role of Christopher. No surprise then that the lead role requires an alternate actor (David Breeds) as well as an understudy who you imagine might perhaps get more work than most! The role of Christopher must be extremely physically and mentally demanding, as well as emotionally exhausting.

The concept is really engaging for a wide audience and despite it being an exploration of the autistic experience it is accessible and easy to follow, perhaps because it is also an exploration and reflection of family life and relationships.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is praiseworthy for the sheer spectacle of the whole production, impressive direction, intimate performances and moments of thrilling physical theatre and dance.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time plays at Nottingham's Theatre Royal from Tuesday 8 to Saturday 12 February 2022.

Theatre Royal

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