Christopher Boone is the central figure in 2003’s Whitbread Book of the Year, by Mark Haddon. Boone has proved to be as appealing to the theatre world as he undeniably is to the literature one. The staging of Haddon’s popular novel is a multi-faceted testament to the power of theatre and Christopher (Graham Butler) is certainly the right captain for this great success. An enigmatic narrator at worst and a unintentionally dazzling story-teller at best, Christopher Boone is one of the more accomplished characters of contemporary writing, who more than deserves to have his story told in the West End. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time premiered at the National’s Cottesloe Theatre in 2012. Since then, Christopher has graced the stage of the Apollo, which was notably cut short due to the well-documented roof collapse, and is now comfortably at home in the Gielgud theatre in the West End.
Aged 15, Christopher suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, and feels most relaxed when imagining a life separate from people. This is hardly surprising given the tumultuous revelations that unravel his domestic safe haven. Christopher dreams of working onboard a spacecraft; a fantasy that is realised on stage in a truly magical way, along with an eclectic array of other montages. His fellow cast members lift Butler as the lights dim and the stage becomes littered with stars. His body is then whirled around as he imagines himself as an astronaut. The movement of the play in general is fairly distinct, almost like a video game; Butler navigates the stage with fluid movements and exaggerated gestures. Though Butler is perhaps a tad mature to truly incarnate Christopher, I found his performance electric, layered and engaging.
The set felt like a playground for the actors, which is a testament to Bunny Christie’s design and Marianne Elliot’s direction; exciting and engaging, it was joy to discover the numerous secrets of the set design as they were revealed. The moving walls, hidden pockets within the floor, projections and physically engaged actors all contributed to the feeling that we were watching theatre without limitations.
Somehow, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time manages to navigate a tightrope between serious drama and playful comedy, utilising a complex catalogue of theatrical tricks that work to enliven Haddon’s writing for a live audience. Those familiar with the novel will find the dramatic climax of the first half unsurprisingly unnerving; there is something distinctly powerful in being able to see this revelation play out on stage
Sarah Woodward’s portrayal of Christopher’s teacher, Siobhan, was particularly charming. Her delivery of the show’s closing line echoed the bittersweet temperament of the show. The rest of the supporting cast were dynamic and strong, however, it is fair to say that the show is propelled forward by the charm of Butler.
To call Simon Stephens’s adaptation of The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Night-Time entertaining would be an understatement. The play is a spectacular theatrical achievement that exceeded all my expectations. As evidenced by the continual hum of gasps, laughs and tears married with a standing ovation at the play’s close, I do not think I have sat amongst more fulfilled theatre-goers. Mark Haddon’s cult novel is in the most competent of hands. The creative team behind The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time have produced a marvellous visual interpretation of Haddon’s book, which has enjoyed brilliant reviews since its debut. Now, a firm favourite amongst the West End crowd, the play opens itself up to a new audience on the Gielgud stage.
It was a pleasure to be part of Christopher’s world.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Time-Time is booking at the Gielgud Theatre until 25 February 2015. For more information see the National Theatre website.