Simon Stephens’ stage adaptation of Mark Haddon’s award winning book, “The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time” is a triumph on so many levels, claims guest writer Nigel Stone. The stage itself is a four dimensional graph with the relativity and importance of time as well as mathematics playing a large part in the production; but please don’t let that put you off.
SPOLIER ALERT: The “dog” of the title lies dead in the middle of the stage; a pitchfork sticking out of its back. Christopher Boone is a fifteen year old boy with “Behavioural Problems”, and he wants to find out who killed the dog; so he decides to investigate. Although the words autism and Asperger’s don’t appear in the script, it is obvious that Christopher is unable to emotionally connect with others. He also can’t cope with physical contact, and takes anything that is said to him literally.
Christopher struggles with life, and this play manages to illustrate those struggles; using a captivating combination of lights, words, numbers, movement, noise, and a paradoxically engaging performance from Joshua Jenkins as Christopher. The production can be a sensory onslaught at times, but that’s the whole point; we are observing the world through Christopher’s eyes and ears.
But the play isn’t just about who killed a dog. We also get to see into Christopher’s family, community, and school life; and we worry, when he decides to take his pet rat, and heads off to London by himself (the scene in the tube station is particularly tense). There is also a sub-plot about him being allowed to sit his Maths A Level; two years earlier than anyone else in the school.
There are some delightful touches of humour; particularly when Christopher is interacting with members of the community or the authorities. But there are some heartbreaking moments as well, when we’re forced to experience Christopher’s fears, distress, and confusion.
It was said that the source material couldn’t be adapted for the stage, but fortunately Simon Stephens disagreed. He not only proved it was possible, but he also showed that it could be a critical and commercial success. The production was not quite flawless though, with some of the ensemble performances stronger than others; but on the whole, that didn’t really matter. The source material, the set design, the lighting, the direction, the choreography, and the heart at the centre of Joshua Jenkins’ performance more than made up for any minor shortcomings.
Haddon’s original book was published in both an adult and children’s edition; despite containing one or two “F” words, and it was a pleasure, yet again, to see both young and old at The Grand Theatre tonight. This is a show that literally dazzles with its sheer spectacle and you are urged to go see it if you can. And you are advised to stay in your seat, after the final bow, because there’s a brief and entertaining maths lesson to take in, before you leave the theatre. Seriously, stick around for it. you never know when a bit of pythagoras might come in handy.