Mark Haddon’s 2003 novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time has always been acclaimed as a spellbinding, moving and honest portrayal of those suffering with Asperger’s Syndrome. Almost ten years after its publication, the prolific and prominent British playwright Simon Stephens, famed for his often darkly dramatic tales of human interaction and emotion, took up the task of adapting this poignant narrative for the stage. After its premiere at the National Theatre in 2012, since which time it’s successfully transferred to the West End and survived a collapsing roof in its resident Apollo Theatre, the production is currently on tour around the country. I managed to see it on its recent stop at the Grand Theatre in Leeds.
Curious Incident follows the story of Christopher Boone (Chris Ashby), a fifteen-year-old boy with Asperger’s Syndrome, who comes across the pitchfork-pierced corpse of his neighbour’s dog Wellington. Horrified at this, and initially wrongly accused of the crime, Christopher begins an investigation into the identity of the dog’s murderer. This, however, displeases Christopher’s dad Ed (Stuart Laing), who tells him to stay out of other peoples’ business. When Ed takes Christopher’s book he’s writing about his investigation with teacher Siobhan (Geraldine Alexander) away from him, he finds it hidden in a box full of letters from his mother Judy (Gina Isaac). Supposedly declared dead from a heart attack eighteen months ago, Christopher’s world is turned upside down, and, armed with an address and his pet rat Toby, he heads off to London to find his mother.
Sometimes with a review, I simply want to write, ‘This production is absolutely awesome, go and see it, it’s flawless, go and see it.’ and be done with it, and this is certainly one of those reviews. Curious Incident is an amazing production, and everything about it drips with quality. The narrative of the original novel translates excellently onto the stage, with masterful portrayals of each of the characters we come across drawing us further into world of the ever-inquisitive Christopher.
Curious Incident also boasts one of my favourite set designs. Pretty much a large white box adorned with graph-like numbers up the sides and housing white boxes that double as bits of furniture and such, it’s a marvellously open space for the performers to execute Stephens’ excellent script. More so, it allows you to fully appreciate the cool bits of physical theatre crafted by none other than Frantic Assembly’s Steven Hoggett and Scott Graham, making the production even more theatrically versatile.
Light and sound triumphantly come together in this production, truly enhancing the world of the play and pinpointing moments that are simultaneously moving, epic and poignant. I’ve mentioned theatrical presence a lot more in my latest reviews, simply because you can really feel when a production either has one or lacks one. As you’ve probably guessed, the latter’s not the case with Curious Incident. It’s a confident, compelling show that does exactly what theatre should do: entertain, engage and enquire.
Like I said earlier, it would have been much easier for me to write my simplified, miniature review, since it was quite a task finding the best ways of describing this show. It’s a production that deserves the awards it’s won, along with the smiles and laughter it’s garnered over the last few years, and if you only see one show this year, let it be this one. Even if you’ve gotten your theatre fix this year, let this be another to add to your list. And if you’re a student, like me, then you’ve definitely got to see this quality production.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is at Leeds Grand Theatre until 29 August and then continues its tour. For more information and tickets, see the production website. Photo by the National Theatre.