The National Theatre’s hugely successful production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time returns to London at the Apollo theatre for an extended run – but is it still as thrilling second time around?
Original star Luke Treadaway is back – for some performances, you should note – and proves why the plaudits were so plaudity. He’s spellbinding as the young wannabe detective with “behavioural problems” (don’t say Asperger Syndrome – author Mark Haddon seems to have changed his mind on that one according to the programme). But if you haven’t read the original book, his “problems” include social difficulties which means he doesn’t like being touched and finds it hard to understand complex emotions, retreating into a world of logic and maths. As if that wasn’t enough to deal with, someone’s murdered the neighbour’s dog, and his mum’s death a couple of years ago may not have been what it seems…
Christopher’s condition isn’t just expressed through Luke’s performance, but throughout the execution of the whole play. Where the book makes you see it through his eyes in first person, and really helps to make you understand the way he sees the world, this adaptation (by Simon Stephens) turns his book into a stage play, which is produced by his teacher, resulting in a highly physical ensemble piece that feels authentically like it’s from Christopher’s mind.
The quickest and most effective way they’ve done this is through video design by Finn Ross. Geometry and science fiction influence playful light-work which ranges from a sudden burst of constellations, to an overbearing railway station filled with blaring advertising, and a secret finale that turns an A level maths question into a Vegas-style motivational seminar.
But Curious Incident is not without beautiful subtle touches too. When the audience arrive, all Prime Number seats have a little message on them (you can even win a prize). As someone mentions being “shit on from a great height” Christopher suddenly pulls up his hoodie. Little models are secreted all over the set which eventually build-up to become a stage-wide train set that takes Christopher to London. Every few minutes brings something new to either tug at the heartstrings or leave you awestruck.
Marcus du Sautoy thinks you should see this play – and he’s Professor of Mathematics at Oxford. So there.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time runs at the Apollo Theatre. Tickets are £12-£85 available online.