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Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Family Review

The Bristol Hippodrome

Tuesday 4th – Saturday 8th August 2015

The National Theatre’s multi award-winning production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time has arrived at The Bristol Hippodrome and my goodness, what an entrance it’s made!

If, like us, you’ve already read Mark Haddon’s best-selling novel, you might find it hard to imagine how the book could possibly be successfully translated into a stage play but it certainly doesn’t disappoint.

Having experienced the play’s opening night at The Bristol Hippodrome this week, I’m not in the least bit surprised to learn that this energetic, emotional, funny and intelligent production has recently been awarded FIVE prestigious Tony Awards® on Broadway  

  • Best Play – Simon Stephens
  • Best Direction of a Play – Marianne Elliot
  • Best Performance by a leading Actor in a Play – Alex Sharp as Christopher Boone
  • Best Lighting Design of a Play  – Paule Constable
  • Best Scenic Design of a Play  – Bunny Christie and Finn Ross.

STORY SYNOPSIS

Fifteen year old Christopher stands besides Mrs Shears’ dead dog.  It has been speared with a garden fork and Christopher is under suspicion. He sets out to investigate who murdered Wellington and records each fact in a book he is writing to solve the mystery.

He has an extraordinary brain and is exceptional at maths while ill-equipped to interpret everyday life.  He has never ventured alone beyond the end of his road, detests being touched and distrusts strangers but his detective work, forbidden by his father, takes him on a frightening journey that upturns his world.

THE PLAY

The set is a fairly plain cell-like cube with graph paper covering the walls and lots of lights built into the floor and walls. As soon as the show begins we can’t take our eyes off the extraordinary action. There are very few physical props apart from a few plain white boxes which are carried around the stage and used for all sorts of purposes and yet the stage is busy.

Lights and projected images combine with sound effects and music to create desired moods but my description really doesn’t do it justice. The effects are extraordinary and help give an insight into Christopher’s unique mindset which others refer to as Asperger’s Syndrome but Christopher himself describes as ‘behavioural problems’.

I empathise with the characters: I feel horribly tense when Christopher finds himself in challenging situations like trying to make the horrendously stressful journey from Swindon to London, I feel so sad for parents who can’t just cuddle their son when he’s distressed, instead having to make do with a glancing fingertip touch and I feel so upset for the frustrated father who invests so much into his son but risks losing him because he gets things so horribly wrong.

And I’m sure I’m not alone – it feels as though the audience as a whole has a stake in the story’s outcome. Early on in the evening just as the play begins there are a couple of sweet bag rustlers near us, irritating to the extent that other English audience members are actually ‘shush’ing the culprits (I know!) but as events unfold and we’re drawn further into the action you could hear a pin drop in the theatre.

There’s a very cutesy moment near the end which I can’t possibly spoil but it’s heartwarming to hear ‘ahs’ and ‘how sweet’ all around as the tension is broken.

The National theatre cast is a pleasure to watch. Coupled with their acting skills and the ability to convey a huge amount of dialogue, are complicated choreographed sequences during which fellow actors might be  held aloft horizontally so they can walk along walls or lifted from the floor to ‘swim’ in the sea.

Joshua Jenkins fills his principal role beautifully. He takes us with him when he experiences a meltdown and frequently makes us laugh out loud, whether by showing us his misunderstanding of another pesky metaphor or with his mimicking pronunciation of a newly discovered word, like “ba-tten-berg”.  When he enthusiastically explains a maths problem I find it hard to separate Joshua Jenkins the actor from Christopher Boone the character.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

AGE SUITABILITY

There’s quite a lot of strong language. In the first few moments when I hear “Holy fuck” and “You little shit” yelled across the stage, I’m relieved not to have brought the children with me.

There’s also high intensity lighting, video effects and loud sound effects which do an amazing job of creating atmosphere but at times they’re pretty stressful. I actually find myself closing my eyes at one point to avoid the full intensity of strobing lights flashing into my eyes.

The play’s been given a suggested rating of 11+. I know my boys will learn a lot from a production like this, perhaps when they’re about thirteen, but for now I think it’s a bit full on.

THE VERDICT

Do you ever read that a film or a play has won numerous awards and expect that to mean it’s going to be a bit arty and, dare I say it, boring? Well The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is nothing like that.

Simon Stephens’ adaptation of Mark Haddon’s best-selling novel, has won numerous awards and when you sit in the theatre realising you’re leaning forward because you don’t want to miss a thing, you just know it’s a goody. The quality of the acting is impressive right across the board and the effects are so unusual you’ll just have to go and see the play yourself as I can’t do them justice in these few lines.

Apologies for the metaphor Christopher, but I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for future National Theatre productions.

Awesome show. Highly recommended.

CAST, CREDITS & FURTHER INFORMATION

The central role of Christopher Boone is played by Swansea born Joshua Jenkins who’s making his National Theatre debut as Christopher. Geraldine Alexander plays his teacher Siobhan, Roberta Kerr as Mrs Alexander, Stuart Laing as his father Ed, Gina Isaacs as Judy and Clare Perkins as Mrs Shears.  The cast is completed by Chris Ashby (alternate Christopher), Emmanuella Cole (Punk Girl), Edward Grace(Mr Thompson), Lucas Hare (Roger Shears), John McAndrew (Reverend Peters) with Kieran GarlandAnn MarcusonPaul Sockett and Jessica Williams in the ensemble.

Marianne Elliott is an Associate Director of the National Theatre where her productions have included: War Horse (co-directed with Tom Morris), The Light PrincessPort, Season’s Greetings, All’s Well that Ends Well, Harper Regan, Saint Joan (Olivier Award for Best Revival, South Bank Show Award for Theatre), and Pillars of the Community (Evening Standard Award for Best Director).  Marianne was consultant director on The Elephantom for the National Theatre and also recently directed Sweet Bird of Youth for the Old Vic with Kim Cattrall. 

Mark Haddon’s novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was published in 2003. It was the winner of more than 17 literary awards, including prizes in Japan, Holland and Italy as well as the Whitbread Book of the Year Award in the UK in 2004, and was translated into 44 languages. A Spot of Bother, published in 2006, was also an international bestseller. As well as writing fiction, Mark Haddon’s first work for the theatre, Polar Bears, was produced by the Donmar Warehouse in 2010. He has written 15 books for children, published a first collection of poetry in 2005 and is an illustrator and award-winning screenwriter. The Red House, Mark Haddon’s new novel was recently published by Vintage in paperback.

Simon Stephens’ play Birdland recently ran at the Royal Court Theatre with Andrew Scott in the central role. Blindsided premiered at the Royal Exchange in Manchester earlier this year.  His play Port (originally produced at the Royal Exchange and also directed by Marianne Elliott) was revived at the National Theatre’s Lyttelton Theatre last year.  His other plays for the National are Harper Regan and On the Shore of the Wide World (co-production with Royal Exchange, Manchester: Olivier Award for Best New Play).  His many other plays include Three Kingdoms, Wastwater, Punk Rock, Seawall, Pornography, Country Music, Christmas and Herons; A Thousand Stars Explode in the Sky (co-written with Robert Holman and David Eldridge); an adaptation of Jon Fosse’s I Am the Wind and Motortown.  His version of A Doll’s House for the Young Vic transferred to the West End and then New York in 2014. Simon is an Associate at the Lyric, Hammersmith.

 

THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME

Tuesday 4th – Saturday 8th August

Evenings at 7.30pm

Matinees on Weds & Sat at 2.30pm

Tickets: £11.90 – £38.90

Concessions available

www.curiousonstage.com

 

THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME

National Theatre

Starring Joshua Jenkins, Geraldine Alexander, Gina Isaacs, Stuart Laing, Roberta Kerr & Clare Perkins

Tuesday 4th – Saturday 8th August

Evenings at 7.30pm

Matinees on Weds & Sat at 2.30pm

Tickets: £11.90 – £38.90

Concessions available

www.curiousonstage.com

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DISCLOSURE: WE RECEIVED TICKETS FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS REVIEW.  ALL OPINIONS ARE MY/OUR OWN.

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