Arts, Venue

Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime

After its debut at the National Theatre, the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime went on to win countless awards, and was transferred to the West End and Broadway. The play is now being performed all over the world – including Norwich.

It is undeniably an immense production, which has managed to captivate audiences for five years now, with its dazzling and awe-inspiring theatricality. And although much of the success is down to Simon Stephen’s adept script, and a brilliant creative team, what is really at the heart of this production is a story. The tale seems to move, touch and inspire everyone who comes into contact with it, on some level.

Adapted from Mark Haddon’s novel, it tells the story of Christopher Boone, a teenage boy living in a Suburban Town with Asperger Syndrome. He likes mathematics, has a pet rat called Toby and finds people difficult (they use too many metaphors, he explains). But when he discovers his neighbor’s dog has been murdered with a garden fork, he takes on the role of a Sherlock Holmes-esque detective; what begins as an attempt to uncover a murderer, soon weaves into unearthing uncomfortable truths about his family.  
It’s a story of immense bravery. Christopher’s literal and metaphorical journey is something that resonated with readers, and when brought to life on stage, becomes even more powerful and awe-inspiring.

Although the book allows readers to get inside Christopher’s mind, the stage production offers an exciting alternative, which creates an external manifestation of Christopher’s internal responses to the world around him. This is a world that is often a confusing and daunting place, but also surreal, where what seems mundane, can become bizarrely beautiful. The way that he perceives things is wonderfully executed through Bunny Christie’s visceral set design. The stage is a giant, mathematical grid, which visually embodies the sheer scope of Christopher’s imagination, from prime numbers, to constellations, to train routes to London. The malleable staging allows for infinite possibilities, where the seemingly unstageable can occur.

But the originality and sheer ingenuity of this production lies in the movement direction from Scott Graham and Steven Hogget, artistic directors of Frantic Assembly. Their distinctive style is utilized throughout, most notably incorporated into the ensemble, using stylized movement as a way to visually portray Christopher’s story and the day-to-day aspects of his life in a way that words could perhaps not express. Always on the stage, they fluidly evolve and transition between a wide array of characters. But it is when they are working together that they become a real tour de force, particularly in scenes where they catapult Christopher into outer space, or where they’re embodying the erratic and chaotic nature of his train journey to London, all of which is underscored by Adrian Sutton’s exhilarating electronic score.

This dazzling production, which features an excellent cast and creative team, is one that seems to be going from strength to strength, and will only continuing to keep inspiring and captivating the imaginations of many.


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July 2021
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