The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time adapted by Simon Stephens from the book by Mark Haddon and produced by the National Theatre is a visual feast, with assured performances from a tight ensemble cast and a dazzling array of stage and lighting tricks. The style of the piece sets about mining a rich history of complex movement and physical theatre techniques, drawing from the methods of people like Rudolf Laban and Jacques Lecoq. Using these ideas to tell the story and in place of complex set and scenery is an insight into the way our protagonist and narrator, Christopher, sees and interacts with the world.
Christopher is a 15 year old with Aspergers Syndrome, and in his particular case, causing him huge difficulty with social understanding and what his school calls ‘behavioural problems’. It also leads him to discover things in a slightly different way, looking at behaviors and situations from oblique angles. His difficulty in interacting with anyone other than his pet rat Toby, makes his interactions with actors, when they are making up set and scenery, all the more interesting. A strong performance from Rebecca Lacey as Siobhan and the voice of Christopher’s diary gives the audience a flicker of what it must be like to deal with a condition like Aspergers, and Stephens’ writing navigates his difficult moments with poise and brevity. Technically, this is a stunning piece as well- the stage is covered with LED lights, hidden pop-up sections and hidey-holes – we are seeing the inside of Christopher’s mind, with him discovering and repressing things in new ways literally as we watch.
I can’t help thinking that the brilliant movement work in this piece, rightfully lauded in numerous reviews, has a bigger place in the national theatrical landscape than it currently holds. Indeed, in the world of Fringe theatre, where set, complex scene changes, and difficult set pieces are difficult to afford and stage in small spaces, physical theatre and movement work are often utilised as a tool. The work of Frantic Assembly, as part of this production is wonderful, and I hope to see more experimental work like this come out of the larger production houses in the country – as an integral part of traditional storytelling, rather than in stand alone ‘physical theatre’ pieces.
Siôn Daniel Young as Christopher gives a subtle and careful performance, in what must be an incredibly difficult emotional and physical state to achieve. Strong supporting moments as well from Matthew Trevannion and Stephen Beckett show what a truly effective and important ensemble piece this is.
At points I believe sticking to the confines of the original story lets the show down, with a slight lack of directional drive in the second half, but this is a breathtaking piece of theatre, as beautiful in its performances as it is visually. A credit to the National and our British theatrical identity, in this age of tired revivals and reliance on bankable classics. 4/5
Review written by Samuel Clay.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time is currently showing at the Gielgud Theatre. For more information on the production, visit here…