Theatre Interlude: The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time

7 Jul

Curious Prog  Scan

I spent yesterday in London and saw the matinee performance of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time at the Apollo Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue. This play, adapted by Simon Stephens from the 2003 award-winning novel of the same name by Mark Haddon, started life at the National Theatre and then transferred to the commercial West End stage.

The production, like the book, is centred the world as experienced by Christopher Boone, a fifteen year-old boy with learning difficulties associated with Asperger’s Syndrome. The part of Christopher is played by Luke Treadaway in an outstanding performance and the production utilises an amazingly inventive set design and creative lighting and sound to tell the story.  The central performance is so dominant that it rather overshadows fine performances by other actors, especially Sean Gleeson as Christopher’s father,  Holly Aird as his mother and Niamh Cusack as his teacher.

For all its inventiveness though, the transfer of the book to the stage took away some of the novel’s richness for me. This was probably inevitable since conveying in any depth how and why Christopher thinks as he does would be an enormous dramatic challenge – the book’s attempt to do this is simply more successful. In addition, by focusing the play so much on the character of Christopher (who is, of course, self-centred and finds others a puzzle) , something is lost of the the complex motives and  struggles of his parents and the way their relationship fractures because of the way his behaviour drains and impacts on them.  I was left feeling that the adaptation resulted in the audience rooting so much for Christopher that it diminished the love and stoicism (however flawed) of his parents.  This is understated in the play compared to the book.

Tickets to the production I watched are now almost impossible to get (especially after it won no fewer than seven of this year’s Olivier Awards). It was pure dumb luck that led me to book the day before nominations were announced! If you’re in London though, I’d recommend queueing for returns – and even if you’re not in London, the book is worth reading or re-reading.

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