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A CurtainUp London London Review
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Still Wonderful in a New Venue

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Graham Butler as Christopher (Photo: Brinkhoff Mögenburg)
Now playing at the Gielgud Theatre, Marianne Elliot's production of Mark Haddon's book is still as powerful and moving since its inception at the National Theatre.

Many of the original elements are still intact with the only main difference being a cast change throughout. The beautifully incongruous mixture of the futuristic set and the antique nature of the Gielgud Theatre makes the space quite a sight as you enter. Bunny Christie's set design still consists of a cube like structure wrapped in mathematical graph paper on which we witness some of the most impressive stage lighting and projection displays seen in the West End.

None of the soul of the piece has been lost and it still manages to pack quite an emotional punch. Simon Stephens's adapted script is both resonantly funny and relatable. We assume Christopher, the protagonist 15 year old, has Asperger's Syndrome, but this is never directly referenced. This allows us to not label him from the off with the many behavioural problems that are inherent in the disability but to look at Christopher as a regular human character in his own right which should always be the case. This is a story about a boy finding his way and it is about family.

What Elliot's production does place much emphasis on is the concept of boundaries and Christopher is a boy who must live his life within these. He can't really be touched, certain daily tasks must be done in certain ways and instructions must be given in the clearest possible way. This concept is bolstered by the amalgamation of Christie's set and the superb choreography of Frantic Assembly. The claustrophobic nature of Christopher's 'condition' is enhanced when as he embarks on his journey through the chaos of London, the walls literally start to close in around him.

Graham Butler takes over the role as the heart-warming Christopher. He is extremely engaging and impresses immensely in his ability to present such a character without ever teetering on the borders of stereotype. The supporting ensemble is also extraordinary and there is not one weak clog in this affecting machine. It is a delight to see so much recognition given to the technical team at the end of the evening and Paule Constable's lighting design combined with Finn Ross's video creations are crucial to the telling of this bold story. The slick and beautiful lighting scape that accompanies much of the action is truly awe inspiring and is given poignancy and emotive power throughout by the music and sound design of Adrian Sutton and Ian Dickinson respectively.

This show is a shining emblem of London's theatre scene and not only is it funny and extremely clever it will at times also manage to recuperate your faith in humanity.

Current Production Notes
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Written by Mark Haddon
Adapted by Simon Stephens
Directed by Marianne Elliot
Designed by Bunny Christie

Starring: Graham Butler, Abram Rooney, Sarah Woodward, Nicolas Tennant, Emily Joyce, Gay Soper, Victoria Willing, Daniel Casey, Paul Stocker, Vivienne Acheampong, Tony Turner
Lighting: Paule Constable
Video: Finn Ross
Movement: Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett for Frantic Assembly
Music: Adrian Sutton
Sound: Ian Dickinson
Running time: Two hours 35 minutes including interval
Box Office: 0844 482 5130
Booking to 14th February 2015
Reviewed by Tim Newns based on 9th July 2014 production at the Gielgud Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1D 6AR
The original review by Lizzie Loveridge

I always tell the truth. — Christopher
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
Cast in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (Photo: Brinkhoff/Moegenburg)
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time was a hit novel for Mark Haddon with its analysis of the adventures of a 15 year old boy who has a disorder in the autism spectrum, akin to Asperger's. Haddon says the novel is not a manual on autism but a book about otherness and how society at large reacts to what is different.

Marianne Elliott and Simon Stephens have turned the novel into a play which I found even more fascinating than the book. After selling out at the Cottesloe at the National Theatre, it has thankfully transferred to the Apollo in the West End. The play is charming and beautifully staged by Bunny Christie on a black and white grid on three sides and the floor, to draw on with chalk, or to illuminate with seemingly endless lighting possibilities.

Christopher Boone (Luke Treadaway) is visited and questioned by the police investigating the gruesome death by garden fork of the dog belonging to his next door neighbour. The police are patronising and long suffering when faced with Christopher's wonderful retention of strange facts and his insistence on precise detail. Christopher speaks his own words but his thoughts are usually voiced by Niamh Cusack as Siobhan, Christopher's teacher at the special school he attends. Christopher is candid and often unintentionally amusing as he describes truths that the rest of us shy away from because they might be tactless or hurtful or just too frank. We track back two years into the past and Christopher's recalls how his mother Judy (Holly Aird) "went into hospital" and later his father Ed (Seàn Gleeson) told him that "she had died".

Christopher is a talented mathematician and fascinated by theorems and prime numbers. The numbers and lights are projected to show Christopher's mental activity. There are situations which he finds difficult to handle, confusion and crowds, and all the other actors will physically convey Christopher's agitation in a choreographic cacophony. Two of Frantic Assembly's team, Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett are the movement directors and their imaginative physical work greatly adds to the complexity of interpretation. Christopher finds some unopened letters from his mother who he had thought was dead which throw him into a state of consternation, and while his mother reads her letters to him, Christopher single-mindedly builds a miniature train track layout while papers rain down and the letters are projected on the walls.

"I don't like acting," says Christopher, ". . . . pretending something is real when it's made up. It's a kind of lying." He sets off on an adventure to go to London with his father's credit card and Toby, his pet rat for company. The underground and the escalators will fascinate Christopher who has been brought up in Swindon in Wiltshire. The congestion of London is beautifully realised by Marianne Elliott with tramping people, projected sound bites, rap music and flashing lights. We see too Christopher's odd quirks. He doesn't like being hugged or kissed but instead, looking away, will put his hand palm facing you for you to match it with your hand.

Luke Treadaway creates Christopher's character with immense skill without ever being mawkish. It is a play which appeals to our inner child and Treadaway's performance allows us to see the world through his eyes. I never believed he was anything except 15. Niamh Cusack is very soft and kind as his teacher and recognises Christopher's mathematical potential. He is entered for A level Mathematics, something that has never before happened at his special school. The 11 strong cast work very hard as the 37 plus characters who interact with Christopher on his quest to find out how the dog was murdered. Christopher onstage will prove a solution involving Pythagoras' Theorem for those who stay after the curtain call. Solving the murder will impact terribly on Christopher's sense of trust. The ending is just perfect and I won't spoil it here but there is a replacement for Christopher's pet rat which has the ahh factor.

I met someone in the interval on opening night who was unprepared for the simplicity of the story line through Christopher's black and white thoughts and who was under the impression that he was watching a children's play, and here I quote, until he heard "the F word." I would name The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time as the number one must-see play on in London but research it before you go, so you know what to expect.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
Based on the best selling novel by Mark Haddon
Adapted for the stage by Simon Stephens
Directed by Marianne Elliott

Starring: Luke Treadaway, Niamh Cusack, Seàn Gleeson, Holly Aird, Howard Ward, and Audrey/Marilyn as Toby
With: Tilly Tremayne, Sophie Duval, Matthew Barker, Rhiannon Harper-Rafferty
Designed by Bunny Christie
Movement Directors: Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett
Music: Adrian Sutton
Lighting: Paule Constable
Sound: Ian Dickinson for Autograph
Video Design: Finn Ross
Running time: Two hours 40 minutes including an interval
Box Office: 0844 482 9671
Booking to 31st August 2013
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 12th March 2013 performance at the Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1D 7EZ (Tube: Leicester Square/Piccadilly Circus)
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