Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time ****

Last Wednesday was an amazing day! I got to see my some of my best friends, and share in some amazing news. And as if that wasn’t enough, we were watching The Curious Case Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. And as if THAT wasn’t enough, I even had time to go to The Theatre Cafe with one of them beforehand!

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I’m pretty sure you guys know just how obsessed I am with The Theatre Cafe, and it was just as amazing as ever! Seriously go for one of the fruit smoothie/chilled things. The strawberry and banana one…delicious! Especially on the hottest day of the year!

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And then we headed just across the road to watch Curious Incident.

I’m quite familiar with Curious Incident, as I read the book and wrote about it for A-Level English. I’ve been wanting to watch this play for a few years now, and fate conspired to let me go!

Okay, I say fate conspired…more like LastMinute.com had a sale on, with tickets only £15!

Value wise, these seats were what you’d expect: Grand Circle so up in the heavens and side on view, so one corner of the stage was obscured. But I’d rather pay £15 discounted for that than full price, plus I finally got to see the play…well, most of it! I’ve been to The Gielgud Theatre before, as I went to see Strangers on a Train there last year. It’s an intimate theatre, and even in the Grand Circle, you don’t feel too far removed from the action. Also, N.B., I thought I would be boiling in that theatre, what with heat rising and all. But it was actually air conditioned. Probably the coolest place in London!

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The play itself is stunning. A completely immersive piece of theatre: visually breathtaking, it’s a sensuous spectacle.

You can always count on a National Theatre production to play around with traditional staging techniques. And this play basically chucks them out the window! The stage itself is a very open space: three walls with rectangular patterns, and no actual set aside from boxes which become seats, TVs and even fish tanks! Props form part of the staging, especially towards the end of the first half, as a train set which Christopher has been playing with periodically creates a visual map for the audience.

Despite being an open space, the stage is still made to feel claustrophobic at certain point; this is achieved both through visually stimulating triggers and sound, but also through the stage physically moving forward, such as in the Tube scene. The lighting in this production makes it visually incredible: Christopher’s thought process is made visible with this, left, right, left, right, footprints light up on the floor for us and him to follow. The audience literally sees Christopher’s inner most thoughts, as they are projected on the walls and floor, sometimes in words, sometimes in numbers, sometimes in chalk.

The use of movement is also worth noting. Curious Incident uses movement in such a way that it feels organic, necessary to the play. As another way of us seeing a Christopher and understanding his thoughts. Taking us through his usual routine after school, cast members signify different stages through movement: one is the door he opens, one the coat he removes, one the bed he lies down on, and so on. The supporting cast members literally support Christopher at numerous points throughout the play. I won’t say too much but the scene in which he imagines being an astronaut is so well choreographed.

Just a quick word about the use of sound, because it really did stand out to me in this production. Another way the show portrayed his Aspergers was through sound: in certain scenes, the noise was amplified to an almost deafening and overwhelming volume, and at other points, words literally surrounded Christopher, projected up on to the stage walls. But another remarkable thing was the use of silence. I can’t remember going to the theatre and there being silence on stage for 2 minutes. No words. No background noise. Not even a cough from the audience. And Curious Incident achieved this on 2 separate occasions.

Finally, it goes without saying but the acting is stellar. Siôn Daniel Young leads the cast as Christopher, in a wholly convincing and incredibly physical role. It was the hottest day in 9 years when we went to see this, and considering he spent at least 10 minutes in a sleeping bag, I mean, that deserved a standing ovation in and of itself! Other notable performances include Nicholas Tennant as his father: the dynamic between father and son was so intense and believable, and his anger was palpable. An amazing ensemble and supporting cast, not a weak link. And I mean that literally, as they did carry him across the stage at numerous points without dropping him!

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Rebecca Lacey as the narrator as well did an impressive job in what is quite an odd role. My only criticism of the play does concern this character though: too much meta. There are about 2 very explicit meta references. And by explicit I mean slapped across your face like a wet fish. One of them is literally: ‘Well look, you wrote that book. And then you sold it. And now it’s a play right?’ *looks out into the audience* The other one does have a pay off though: when Christopher is geared up to explain how to solve an equation, the narrator says, ‘Nobody here wants to hear that *looks out into the audience* but you can tell them about it later, after the show maybe’.

And all I will say is this: Stay. Until. The. Very. End.

A great production, and one which lives up to the hype: incredible staging, so modern in terms of design and storytelling. A visual masterpiece, and an adaptation which lives up to the book.

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