The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Festival Theatre Edinburgh, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show details
National Theatre
Mark Haddon (writer), Simon Stephens (adapter), Marianne Elliott (director) Bunny Christie (design), Paule Constable (lighting), Finn Ross (video design), Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett for Frantic Assembly (movement), Adrian Sutton (music), Ian Dickinson for Autograph (sound)
Joshua Jenkins (Christopher), Geraldine Alexander (Siobhan), Roberta Kerr (Mrs Alexander), Stuart Laing (Ed), Gina Isaacs (Judy), Clare Perkins (Mrs Shears), Chris Ashby (alternate Christopher), Emmanuella Cole (Punk Girl), Edward Grace (Mr Thompson), Lucas Hare (Roger Shears), John McAndrew (Reverend Peters) Kieran Garland, Ann Marcuson, Paul Sockett and Jessica Williams (ensemble)
Running time

What is there left to say about an already award winning production based on an award winning book?

Mark Haddon’s book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, that was first published in 2003, involved the internal dialogue of a young man, Christopher Boone, who describes himself as “someone who has Behavioural Problems”.

The book is written from the unique perspective of Christopher, a young man with an exceptional brain. He has the capacity to record minute details and has a phenomenal comprehension of maths, finding comfort in reciting maths mantras when under stress but is unable to interpret human behaviour, holds a serious suspicion of strangers and has a deep dislike of physical contact.

This socially lethal cocktail means he has never set foot alone further than his own road. His book/ diary records how one night at precisely 7 minutes past midnight, he finds the dog of his neighbour Mrs Shears lying dead with a garden fork through its body. He finds himself immediately under suspicion and in frustration hits a policeman.

Released under caution, he goes back home with his Dad resolving to find out who murdered Wellington the dog, despite being put under another caution by his Dad to mind his own business. His undeterred detective work unleashes secrets and sets him on a brave and terrifying journey.

The seemingly impossible task of interpreting what is in the words of author Mark Haddon, “one person’s very insulated … view of the world”, has been brilliantly realised by this creative team and cast. It is genuinely difficult to say which elements make the play so special. The cuboid set of graph paper grids that serves as the canvas for drawings Christopher is chalking on the floor; the jaw dropping videos that create constellations, rain, avalanches of letters and believable train journeys; the dazzling lighting that magically marks his paths; the electrifying music that sharpens the scenes; the precision timed choreography that mirrors Christopher’s precise mind; the top class professional acting from the cast or the superb direction. The visually wondrous mise en scène is a fantastic fusion of entertainment with a serious observation of some alarming issues.

Capitalising on their good relationship, the narration is done on stage by Christopher’s teacher, allowing a comic self- referential element to the performance. His unusual permission to sit A level maths, not only at a Special School but at an early age and his joy at explaining his mathematical solution as an appendix to the book and finale to the play may be esoteric but is also highly affirming.

Christopher’s heightened confusion in encountering the wider world is evoked with immense believability. His difficult and challenging behaviour is not shied away from throughout. His obsession with order and his inability to lie and understand metaphor are faced head on as his parents, the only ones who can touch him albeit with a brief and wary eye averted hand to hand, conduct delicate negotiations around him.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time on stage is a memorable and affecting experience. As writer Mark Haddon says, “ Curious (sic) is not really about Christopher at all “It’s about us.”

28 April - 9 May 7.30pm