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.
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.
P.S. I hope I’m back for good now!