The National Theatre is on to something; excellent adaptations of wonderful novels.
After the 2009 West End transfer of the spectacular War Horse comes a phenomenal new feat of adaptation. Mark Haddon’s acclaimed novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, is undoubtedly not short of success stories; it is brought to life by the same director, lead actor and music and lighting designers as War Horse. These creative forces create a powerhouse collective that seamlessly tells the touching journey of one 15-year-old Christopher.
Christopher is just like many of us: intelligent, capable, and caring. Yet because of his Asperger’s Syndrome, he finds often social cues difficult to recognise and act upon. When faced with the mysterious murder of his neighbour’s dog, Christopher is determined to discover the culprit – only to encounter the complexities of family relationships along the way. Simon Stephens’ sensitive script makes Curious Incident not a play solely about Autism, but one that equally explores the values of intellect, self-confidence, and acceptance.
…effective yet not overly cheesy or Pac Man-esque…
We are immersed in Christopher’s logical world through the cubic, digital set design of Bunny Christie. Four massive grids scale the walls and depict drawings, maps, and thoughts of the protagonist through a stunning combination of synchronised sound and illuminating projections. Particular dazzling moments involve a galaxy of swirling stars and a cacophony of information that Christopher struggles to withstand. For a boy comforted by the stability of prime numbers, the digital concept is appropriate and effective yet not overly cheesy or Pac Man-esque. The sheer visual awe of the technical effects enhances the pace and intrigue of the production, but never distracts from the heart-wrenching storyline. The fluid movements of the ensemble, propelling Christopher from one challenge to the next, complement the action; however, Marianne Elliott’s brilliant direction maintains a consistent balance of visuals throughout.
Luke Treadaway masterfully brings a raw authenticity to Christopher’s sometimes stubborn but honest personality. Niamh Cusack is the warm, inviting Siobhan who leads both the audience and Christopher through her teaching. Seán Gleeson and Holly Aird give each troubled parent their own unique sympathy. The ensemble as a whole successfully displays apt versatility and sheds light on the challenges both Christopher and the characters face as a result of his social difficulties.
…The performance is thought-provoking and rewarding…
The production’s impact is two-fold: its gripping portrayal of the complications facing those affected by Asperger’s Syndrome resonates eerily with audience members who have had similar or related experiences. For those with limited knowledge of Asperger’s Syndrome, Curious Incident also provides an eye-opening perspective in which arithmetic may be beautifully comprehensible, yet the social nuances of our society can be mind-boggling. This two-way interaction of Curious Incident gives it a power beyond satisfying. The performance is thought-provoking and rewarding without even trying to promote attitude awareness. The world and all its subtleties may always be a little daunting for Christopher, but his heartfelt story will forever remain a comforting constant.