REVIEW: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time | Liverpool Empire | 21.07.15

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Having already won numerous awards during its original West-End run, including seven 2013 Olivier Awards, the National Theatre production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time embarked on its first ever nationwide tour at the end of last year. Playing at the Liverpool Empire Theatre from Tuesday 21st July until Saturday 25th July 2015, our resident reviewer, Mari Jones, went along to see just how incredible the show really is.

Mark Haddon, the author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, always expressed concerns about his book being made into a theatrical production. How could such a first-person narrative be adapted for the stage, especially one so radically different from other stories? Yet as soon as the play begins, it is clear to see that Simon Stephens’ stage adaptation is just as refreshing and innovative as Haddon’s book was when it was first published.

Mixing normal stage direction with invigorating movement choreography, we are placed directly into Christopher Boone’s (Joshua Jenkins) exceptional mind, as we watch his story unfold. With accounts written from his own unique viewpoint on the world, we watch fifteen-year-old Christopher struggle to adjust to everyday life, alongside his own shocking discovery that someone has killed his neighbour’s dog with a garden fork. Determined to find the perpetrator of this crime, Christopher decides to carry out his own detective work…except what he will uncover could change his life forever.

Although neither the book nor the play actually mention the term ‘Asperger Syndrome’, this is the reason why Christopher is so disconnected from others. Yet through ingenious set design the production draws us into his confusing world – a world in which a mathematics problem can be solved at the drop of a hat, but people’s facial expressions are impossible to understand. Grids used on the floor and the three walls of the set evoke the feeling of Christopher’s mathematical mind, while boxes are moved about the stage by the cast to create rooms and other settings (like a train), with our imaginations easily filling in the gaps. This minimal effect allows us to focus more on Christopher and his world in an engaging, refreshingly different way.

Joshua Jenkins as Christopher Boone

The use of light projections and sound design also allow us to understand his predicaments more easily, while at the same time keep the production all the more gripping to watch. Certain moments in which director Marianne Elliott fuses all of these elements, along with the exceptional choreography, work to great effect and are some of the best ever seen in a theatrical production. One such exhilarating moment is when Christopher gets stuck amongst a busy crowd who are all walking against him, a terrifying moment that invades our senses as much as his. The beautiful, emotional soundtrack is also terrific, again providing the perfect backdrop to moments such as this, as well as the rest of his exceptional story.

While all of these production elements are astonishing to behold, it is also the performances from the cast which are equally as impressive. Geraldine Alexander as the main narrator is superb, as is Stuart Laing as Christopher’s put-upon father. However it is the lead performance from Joshua Jenkins as Christopher that is the absolute tour de force of the show. The most physically demanding role of the production with some of the most difficult parts of choreography, Jenkins has to be both energetic, yet also muted in order to hide the emotions that Christopher rarely shows. It is an incredible performance and one that truly keeps you immersed in the production.

Having previously seen the National Theatre Encore show when it was screened at my local cinema, I knew what to expect from this. But even that couldn’t prepare me for how breathtaking it is to see the play performed in the flesh. At times hilarious and at others tragic, sometimes heartbreakingly so, the play keeps you on your toes throughout as Christopher’s story unfolds. With a clever mix of set design, stage direction, performance and choreography, as well as the brilliant source material, this is an incredible adaptation and one of the most refreshing pieces of theatre I’ve seen in a long time. On at the Liverpool Empire until the 25th July 2015, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time really is one production you do not want to miss.

Written by Mari Jones

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.