Mark Haddon’s book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time has become a modern classic, for its touching and at times humorous portrayal of the life of Christopher, a 15 year old boy with Asperger’s Syndrome.
Director Marianne Elliott’s stage adaptation for the National Theatre captures all the humanity and insight of Haddon’s original. The production team bring it to life through an excellent setting and range of theatrical techniques, such as taking Christopher’s point of view and having the character of Siobhan (Niamh Cusack) narrate parts of the story from his perspective while he acts it out.
The quirks of the setting and visual devices employed bring a richness to Haddon’s very personal writing. Christopher has certain interests and obsessions, like maths, the universe and Sherlock Holmes, which are built into the setting of the play (for example, the stage is covered with a grid-like pattern resembling graph paper). Also, Elliot’s inspired choreography of the cast during Christopher’s disturbing and traumatic journey from his father’s home in Swindon to his mother’s in London helps to visualise his fear and uncertainty in new situations.
The star of the show is Luke Treadaway, bringing depth and complexity to the character of Christopher as he searches for the person who murdered his neighbour’s dog, Wellington, as well as grappling with his personal demons and insecurities. Christopher’s life is impacted by the turbulent lives of those around him, namely his estranged mother and father. Treadaway’s portrayal is engrossing and draws the audience into his singular world view.
Seeing an adaptation of a book that you have loved can inspire a certain nervousness but fans of A Curious Incident should have no such worry when going to see the National’s faithful and imaginative adaptation. It is a triumph, capturing the depth and touching nature of the original text and adding theatrical sensibilities to great effect. Highly recommended.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time is at the National Theatre at 7.30pm until 27 October plus weekend and Wednesday matinees. The run is sold out but day tickets and returns are available.