Mark Hadden’s ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time’ hit bookshelves back in 2003 to a tremendous response. In its first year, it won Whitbred’s Book of the Year and sold more than two million copies. A year later, it won an Alex Award and became the joint-winner of the Boeke Prize. In 2012 it was adapted by Simon Stephens and opened at the National Theatre to sell-out audiences. Showing no sign of stopping, the play transferred to the Apollo Theatre in March 2013, where its success continued until an untimely and unavoidable temporary closure in December 2013. Last week, the play re-opened to a celebrity-packed audience at its new home of the Gielgud Theatre – reclaiming the five star reviews that the production is renowned for.
The story follows 15 year-old Christopher Boone (Graham Butler). Both incredibly smart and unintentionally quick-witted, he suffers from Aspergers Syndrome and Autism which makes it hard for him to socialise and bond with others. After discovering his neighbour’s dog, Wellington, dead with a pitchfork in his side at precisely 12:07am one evening, Christopher takes it upon himself to be ‘very, very brave’; investigating the local area and attempting to find the dog’s killer.
But the story of this production is only the cherry on top of an incredibly well-constructed cake. Though Christopher’s tale catalyses from the death of Wellington, the themes and subject-matter highlighted throughout are the real reason this play continues to bowl over its audience night after night. Not only does it unravel hard-hitting truths about the way in which people so often treat one another, it exposes how the lies that we can become so easily entangled in can often spiral to levels unanticipated; to depths out of our control.
Leading a phenomenal cast, Graham Butler is simply sublime as Christopher. He depicts a character who is both captivating, endearing and, at times, uncomfortable to watch; much like the disability of his counterpart. Not only does he faultlessly deliver his script, he has the task of constructing and interacting with the complex set around him and, specifically in Act 1, leaves the audience nothing short of awestruck before the interval. Other honourable mentions must go to Emily Joyce and and Nicholas Tennant playing Christopher’s parents, Judy and Ed. Their heartbreak and emotional torment truly oozes into the audience, leaving viewers with a real sense of the struggles and difficulties that parents, not just those with a handicapped child, experience.
But, above all, the lighting and set design of this production sets ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time’ a world apart from the rest. Academy-award nominated Bunny Christie’s set design is a true spectacle and a perfect representation of the complex and fascinating mind of Christopher Boone. Paule Constable’s lighting design only adds to the visual mastery created by this creative team and, together with ingeniously choreographed stage movements (Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett) this play sets a whole new standard in West End theatre.
With honest emotion, tasteful comedy and unexpected surprises, this play is a complete must-see. I left the Gielgud Theatre emotionally fulfilled and with a new-found understanding of the Pythagoras Theorem – and I’m almost sure no other production in town can achieve that.
Photos owned by National Theatre.