REVIEW: Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Sunderland Empire, until Saturday, August 15

Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

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This is a novel that shouldn’t work on stage, but it does, in spectacular fashion.

Much of Mark Haddon’s award-winning book is centred around the ruminations and musings of unlikely hero, Christopher Boone.

Not only are thoughts difficult to translate as drama, Christopher himself feels little warmth or empathy for others - a difficult literary lynch pin to stage a show around.

But it’s testament to the National Theatre and playwright Simon Stephens, who adapted it for the stage, that this story of an autistic teenager and his obsession with solving the riddle of a dead dog enthrals and entertains.

Last time I saw this play was in the West End, and the touring version has lost none of its compelling magic.

Though it’s a play, the staging has all the spectacle and dazzle of a blockbuster musical. That’s thanks to a giant LED cube in which the action takes place.

Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

The cube becomes a physical interpretation of Christopher’s complex mind and it whizzes you through his thought processes, from infinity and beyond to working out maths equations that would baffle the most brilliant of brains.

It assaults the senses and draws you into the world of this teenager and his exceptional mind in the most unexpected of ways.

At times, I found myself holding my breath as the effects catapult you to London as seen through the eyes of someone on the autistic spectrum: a daunting and dazzling array of busy people and pulsating neon signs.

But effects are wasted if the cast don’t have the acting chops to complement them.

Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

Christopher must be one of the most difficult of theatre roles to cast, you can’t wheel out a washed up soap star for this one.

The character is never off stage and it’s a real feat to win over an audience with a character who lives in his own world.

But leading man Joshua Jenkins does just that. He imbues Christopher with an endearing awkwardness as he endeavours to unravel the mystery of his neighbour’s dead dog, as well as the world around him.

As the case of Wellington the canine corpse becomes curiouser and curiouser, Christopher becomes more and more captivating with his sleuthing.

Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

Whereas Christopher is a dreamer, his dad Ed, played by Stuart Laing, is a more salt of the earth character and there’s some really touching moments between the pair as they battle through the highs and lows of family life together.

And make sure not to leave early or you’ll miss the chance to see how the show can make even mundane maths riddles seem fantastically exciting.

Like National Theatre stable mate, War Horse, this is a gloriously unique form of story-telling.

It’s a whodunit, but not as we know it.