Monday, 12 January 2015

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time @ The Lowry, 09.01.15

Mark Haddon's novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time received a lot of attention when it was published. This was partly because it was a very good book, becoming a best seller, but also because its central character is a boy (Christopher) with a condition on the autism spectrum. Some overlooked the fact that the character is clever, charming and complicated and focused instead on this label. The stage adaptation, first running in the West-End and now on a national tour, makes this mistake impossible to make, portraying Christopher as the one label that definitely applies: human.

For those who have not read the book, a brief preamble: Christopher discover his neighbour's dog has been killed, and decides - against the advice of his Dad and his teacher - to try and find the killer. This leads him on an unexpected journey into his past, along with difficult confrontations in the present. As Christopher doesn't like strangers or being touched, and finds the sensory overload of the modern world hard to cope with, these are plentiful and make for both funny and painful viewing.

The successful portrayal of Christopher is key to the play and, in Joshua Jenkins, the production has an actor who can meet the demands of the role. Jenkins has Christopher's character down, from the constrained movements he makes to the liberated flights his imagination takes. The supporting cast, particularly his school teacher played by Geraldine Alexander, help deliver on the promise of Haddon's story, depicting both affection and infuriation with Christopher that mirrors the audience's own response.

The staging breaks Christopher's world down into lines like an electronic graph paper, showing the mathematical lens through which he understands reality. It also makes for a very playful space, one which can light up and be drawn on, and that the audience must use their imagination to make whole. Cute moments, like the chorus animating objects Christopher finds under his Dad's bed or acting out the private lives of his various neighbours at double speed, are inventive and slightly twisted, much like Christopher's own interpretation of events. All of this, accompanied by the strong performance of the cast, indicates a director - Marianne Elliott - at the top of her game, taking an already strong text and translating it with her own twists and touches to taste.

Given the popularity of the book, and the acclaim the play has already accumulated, tickets for the rest of the tour are probably hard to come by. But, given how good this play is, it is well worth trying to get them.

Words: Andrew Anderson

Images: Courtesy of The Lowry

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