London’s West End has so many theatres and I am in awe of the talent that comes together to put together these pieces of art on the London stage. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is one of those gems that has to be on everyone must see list. It is a great piece of entertainment, thought provoking and moving.
This play was first staged at the National Theatre’s Cottesloe Theatre in 2012 and transferred to the West End. so far, the show has won 7 Olivier awards including Best New Play).
This play came about because of a simple passing comment by author Mark Heddon to his friend Simon Stephens. He wasn’t commissioned to do this as Mark thought it would be impossible to adapt the book for theatre. Simon did manage to adapt it and he did it really successfully. With the rest of the production team, they have created a great piece of theatre.
Directed by Marianne Elliott (who won many awards for War Horse), it deals with the tricky subject of projecting a teenager’s mind. Simon had her in mind as the director as hs has extraordinary imagination. She has created a well-balanced portrayal that is sensitive and touching when the subject could have been so easily mangled.
The story is about Christopher a 15-year-old boy who lives with his father, played by Sion Daniel Young in this production. The play starts being narrated by Siobhan his teacher as she reads from a book by Christopher. She has turned his book into a play and the story starts off with him discovering the body of his neighbour’s dog, killed by a pitchfork and he decides to investigate. In his unique way, he uses his own style of logic to follow the clues. In the process, he discovers a few secrets that have been hidden from him.
As the story unfolds, you get hints of his behavioral quirks and what this suggests about Christopher. At no time is there any mention that he is not just an ordinary young teen. Sion performance was powerful, he made it really believable with the tics, mannerisms, facial expressions and hand gestures.
The story weaves around the tragedy of a family’s struggles to cope with a child of special needs, even if he is a maths genius. He is obviously lacking in many social skills that most people take for granted like making small talk and dealing with crowds in a public place. His parents, played by Nicolas Tennant and Mary Stockley, try to show that they love him but are unable to demonstrate that as Christopher doesn’t like to be touched.
Christopher has many difficulties functioning in normal daily life, like the scene where he had to walk to the train station which should have been a straight road but the way his mind works, it only makes sense to take a very convoluted route. When he is agitated and panics from sensory overload, he deals with this by reciting either prime numbers of by multiplying 2s. The music amps up and the video sequences with endless numbers projected gets the audience involved and lets them share that experience in Christopher’s head.
The minimalist stage is set like the pages from a grid notebook. Throughout the play, great use of videos is projected to make translate Christophers thoughts for the audience. The very physical choregraphy by the Frantic Assembly made the play dynamic and engaging.
The last scene ends with an answered question asked by Christopher, “I can do anything, can’t I”. It leaves to the audience to make their own conclusions.
This show would be great for audiences of all ages. It appeals for a whole family. I think everyone who watches this will take something personal from this. It leaves you with something to think about. Make sure you stay a few more minutes after the curtain call. You don’t want to miss that part.
Q&A with the cast of The Curious Incident
I like to peer behind the curtain and uncover the secrets behind the magic. The performance we were was followed by a Q&A with the cast. This is quite insightful if you are a theatre geek like me and here are some of their answers:
- This cast is very new, only 4 weeks into this production and yet the performance is so polished. As if they have been working together for much longer.
- The most common question that people wanted to ask was about how they dealt with
- We learn that the cast have a 40 minute physical rehearsal and warm up before each performance. This shows as each of the very physical scenes are so smoothly executed.
- Sion spent a lot of time at a special school to understand teenagers who are on the autistic spectrum.
- They get many letters of gratitude from the audience for portraying what is to a lot of people their reality of living with a child on the Autism spectrum. The majority feel that it is a story that needs to be told and has been told well.
You can watch a trailer here:
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Simon Stephens, based on the novel by Mark Haddon. Directed by Marianne Elliott. Sets and costumes by Bunny Christie; lighting, Paule Constable; video, Finn Ross; musical score Adrian Sutton. This play is simultaneously being staged on Broadway and on tour around the UK.
Tickets are on sale until February 2016. You can book directly with the National Theatre of Gielgud Theatre with no booking fee. There are 100 tickets at £15 for every performance. If you wanted to catch a performance with a Q&A which they do monthly, find the next date on http://www.curiousonstage.com.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
London W1D 6AR
MyLondonGuide was a guest of the National Theatre