Saturday, 13 July 2013

THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT TIME - National Theatre production at the Apollo Theatre

     Mark Haddon's novel, THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT TIME is a fascinating mix. Fifteen year old Christopher is writing a memoir in the form of an Arthur Conan Doyle detective novel. He becomes a young Sherlock Holmes trying to solve the murder of a neighbor's dog. In the process he uncovers the disintegration of his own family. Sherlock Holmes has his problems dealing with ordinary society, particularly in the contemporary versions with actors Benedict Cumberpatch and Jonny Lee Miller. Christopher has an extreme form of Asberger's syndrome. He can't be touched without screaming or hitting. He also can't tell a lie in a world in which he is surrounded by dishonesty. It's a lovely novel, both deeply sad and inspiring. But how do you adapt for the stage a novel narrating by an autistic teenager? Somehow Simon Stephens, director Marianne Elliott and their colleagues have turned Haddon's book into an even more surprising, exciting and moving theatre work.
     Bunny Christie's set at first seems simple -- a giant box, but by magic and the superb video projections created by Finn Ross, the box shows us the world as Christopher experiences it. The staging, more like choreography has a group of actors who alternately menace and liberate Christopher, at one point lifting him so that he literally walks the walls. Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett of Frantic Assembly have created a kind of ballet as Christopher journeys to solve his mystery and to find a safe place for himself. It's all theatre magic of the highest order.
       I can't praise the cast highly enough. Johnny Gibbon (who alternates with Luke Treadaway) captures Christopher's vulnerability and his strength. Sean Gleeson shows how Christopher's father's awful mistakes are really expressions of his abiding love for his son.
       Read the book, but also see the play. I can only hope it comes to the US.
THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT TIME adapted from Mark Haddon's novel by Simon Stephens. Apollo Theatre, London. July 2, 2013.

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