The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Cottesloe Theatre, London
Wednesday 12th September 2012
Mark Haddon's best-selling novel won the Whitbread Book of the Year in 2003, and has been adapted for the stage by Simon Stephens for the intimate space at the National's Cottesloe Theatre. With a completely sold out run and a daily queue waiting for returns, it is true to say this production has caused a buzz.
One of the major joys of the book is the unusual style and structure that results from the protagonist, Christopher Boone, telling the mystery of Wellington's death through his own eyes. Christopher's Asperger's Syndrome gives him a unique view on the world, and it is this charm that would need to be recreated in a successful stage adaptation. It is therefore the inclusion of teacher Siobbhan narrating excerpts from Christopher's notebook, and later suggesting that they turn his novel into a play, that so successfully structures this production and brings to the stage all of the elements of his personality without compromising the characterisation.
In the round, with audience as close as it is possible to be without joining in, the staging is brilliant. Intelligently designed lighting creates seamless effects that are entirely integrated with the set, plot and actors, making an essentially empty stage come to life. The sound and music also fits well into the story, swelling the drama of the moments of synchronised movement and physical theatre, especially the excellent scenes on and around the train. Production elements too good to need the inclusion of twee touches like live animals, prime numbered seat covers or train sets built into the walls.
Luke Treadaway completely embodies Christopher, in a fantastic performance that captivates from his first entrance. He manages to make the character funny, charming and entirely believable, while maintaining the detached insular nature of his autism. The rest of the cast present their individual characters sensitively to complement the central story, particularly Niamh Cusak as Christopher's teacher Siobbhan and his parents played by Paul Ritter and Nicola Walker, but all also work wonderfully as an intricate ensemble.
An excellent production, directed by Marianne Elliott (director of War Horse for the National), which retains all of the charm of the source novel, but successfully transfers it to the stage by sensitively bringing life and intimacy to the characters.