Curiouser and curiouser

First of all, hi! I know it has been a while since I have posted but having two arms in plaster casts has made it rather tricky. However, they are recovering pretty well now so how could I turn down the opportunity given to me by Official Theatre, to watch The National Theatre’s production of The Curious Incident of The Dog In The Night Time.
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This production has newly opened at the Gielgud Theatre after the unfortunate incident of a ceiling collapse at its previous home. Based on the book of the same name by Mark Haddon, the story is told through the thoughts of 15 year old Christopher who has Asperger Syndrome.

Graham Butler plays the troubled teenager, though he is not troubled in the ways of a normal adolescent, rather in his own mind. He has a logical approach to everything, cannot tell lies, has slight behavioural problems (due to his condition) and is highly mathematically intelligent.

Finding his neighbour’s dog dead leads to him trying to solve the mystery of who killed it and along the way he uncovers a lot of information about his family despite struggling to communicate with people, particularly strangers.

This play is possibly the most uniquely staged I have ever seen. A combination of lighting and sound effects, an entirely minimalistic set and brilliantly convincing characterisation from the cast lead to a stunning show.

It is thought provoking, at times funny and yet also sad. The demonstration that for some people life is such a struggle is made visible here and there is so much going on within Christopher’s head that it is no wonder he struggles to make sense of the world. Not at any point does Butler slip out of character and his portrayal even through to his physicality is right on the money.

Of course I have never had to deal with a problem such as Asperger Syndrome, so I cannot say that what is depicted in the production is how life is for all sufferers but from research I do know how mostly they like things to be just so, to have a reason and to make sense. The way Christopher assesses situations and the way in which, at times he is so overwhelmed by his surroundings is done so that non-sufferers can clearly see what it must be like.

Director Marianne Elliott and designer Bunny Christie have been extremely clever with the set and character placement. Pocket after pocket is used to produce props, sound and lighting effects to create the chaos in Christophers mind, and a narrator is present throughout to explain everything, to read Christophers thoughts if you like, introducing the other cast members and scenarios.

The narrator, Siobhan is played by Sarah Woodward. She is also Christopher’s school teacher and one of the few people he will talk to. She is sympathetic and understanding, yet at the same time she is firm and capable of dealing with her students. Other notable characters include Dad (Nicolas Tennant), Mum (Emily Joyce) and Mrs Alexander (Gay Soper) but in truth the whole ensemble work seamlessly together to create the experience.

And that’s what it is – an experience. It is no surprise that this production has won 7 Olivier Awards, it is an extraordinary play about an extraordinary boy told in an extraordinary way and there is no doubt that it will continue to keep audiences riveted for a long time to come.

If you only see one production this year then this should be it.

With thanks to http:// http://www.officialtheatre.com /http://www.officialtheatre.com/ for arranging the trip and please check out their website link for tickets.

Keep dreaming,
Naomi xx

P.S. I hope I’m back for good now!

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Seriously….never talk to strangers

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I recently was pleased to be able to catch the West End version of Strangers on a train before its run ended on Feb 22nd. I’d heard a few reports from it but not much about it, so it was good to see it with an open mind and minimal knowledge.

Probably best known as a film by thriller maestro Alfred Hitchcock, Strangers on a train started life as a novel by Patricia Highsmith. This adaptation is by Craig Warner and although it was entirely new to me,  there was a definite movie feel about the production.

Jack Huston stars as the incredibly creepy Charles Bruno, a man with plenty of money and no sense of personal space. From the outset it is clear he has homosexual preferences and takes an instant liking to Guy Haines (Laurence Fox), an architect who has become the local laughing stock after his wife Miriam (Myanna Buring) has had a string of affairs.

After an initial meeting in a train carriage and then being persuaded to take a drink in Charles’ room, Guy reveals to Charles that he now has another girlfriend and that Miriam is making a divorce difficult for him. Charles then announces that he wants his father dead. And from there is the plot – Charles’ idea. Two strangers, two murders and neither seemingly connected.

Quite soon after their meeting, Charles strangles Miriam. Guy, who is now with Anne – his girlfriend (Miranda Raison), hears the news and begins to worry and is questioned by the police.  He was never planning to go through with the murder of Bruno Senior and is upset wirh the events.

Charles, however, begins to send letter after letter to Guy. He turns up everywhere, always uninvited and unwelcome, including an appearance at Guy and Anne’s wedding. Letters are also sent to Guy’s family, colleagues and friends. The mental torment for Guy is unbearable so he commits the crime in the hope of being left alone, but sadly things don’t stop there.

The play is cleverly done. Entirely in shades of black, white and grey, the costumes and set look extremely effective. The use of a turntable divided into three also means there are multiple sets but the changes are done simply by moving the round to the next third, making everything nicely slick. The use of background music to set both the period and the tone of the show and of black and white projections all help to create a movie-like and interesting piece. I thought the use of the cast to create tableaus while the man action went on in the foreground worked exceptionally well, apart from the occasional blink they could have been mannequins.

The most disappointing part for me was the end. Tension had been built nicely throughout act one and during act two I wanted nothing more than for Charles to die. Even his mother (Imogen Stubbs) who had a strange, seemingly incestuous relationship with her son, didn’t want to know him. But the final scenes,  after a fantastic performance from the cast, were a bit of an anti-climax and appeared a bit hurried.

Nonetheless I enjoyed it very much,  especially Huston’s somewhat deluded and rather scary character which was faultless. It is a shame that a talented cast such as these have had a short run but if you get the chance to see any of them perform in the future then I highly recommend them.

Keep Dreaming,
Naomi xx