The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Review– Bradford Alhambra
By Ginger Bailey, August 2017
“Can you remember what happens in the book?” I ask my friend Catherine as we queue for drinks. Turns out neither of us can, other than a hazy recollection of a death. “Yes definitely somebody dies,” I say, without much confidence.
The book in question is the bestselling novel by Mark Haddon and we are all set to watch the Tony Award winning (5 times, no less) stage version of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, on tour since January 2017. Thank goodness, who wants to trek to that there London!
Turns out that’s where our main character, Christopher Boone aged 15 years and so many months and so many days, is heading. He can remember exactly how old he is, he has autism and he loves numbers. I, on the other hand, can’t remember what I had for breakfast, let alone my age or indeed how old exactly Christopher is. But that’s later in the play. The beginning, I warm you, starts with a sudden unexpected bang.
“Jesus,” cries out Catherine as we jump out of our seats, expertly avoiding spilling our drinks all over ourselves. And then it all comes back to me – the dog! Of course, the dog gets it and Christopher sets out to find out whodunit it. In his own unique Christopher sort of way.
“I feel overwhelmed”
The stage version, expertly adapted by Simon Stephens, is brought to life by the clever use of lighting (Paule Constable) and the set design (Bunny Christie) – a series of grids and right angles, said to resemble a computer, reminding me more of the axis grid paper from school (do they even use that in school anymore?).
The piece is heavily stylised (Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett, Frantic Assembly) highlighting the terror and threat that Christopher feels on his journey – both literally and metaphorically. In this instance, a journey from Swindon to London: remember he is autistic and can’t deal with metaphors, indeed when asked to “park himself” on the train, we witness him reverse parking.
During his trip to London I feel overwhelmed, which is the point, and I feel the sense of how utterly terrifying and chaotic it is for Christopher to make this journey. Will he be re-united with the person he thinks will keep him safe? And will he return to do his A level and receive an A star? I won’t ruin it for those who haven’t read the book or seen this production, but I will tip you off that Christopher does find out who killed the dog and, I must say, I am alarmed that they are not punished for it.
“Slick and seamless”
The cast and ensemble execute the play well and it is a slick production with seamless scene changes. Scott Reid executes the role of Christopher perfectly, a tricky role to play and he pulls it off. Emma Beattie, playing Judy (Christopher’s mum) is wonderful and allows the audience to feel sympathy for her situation and why she made the difficult decision to leave her son (which, let’s be honest, is considered shameful and taboo in our society).
The scene-stealer though, is the puppy. Yes, yes, a real puppy. How cute. The audience seem to think so given the oohing and aaarring. I’m more interested in how they transport her from venue to venue and if she has her own dressing room?
Perhaps the puppy shares with the rat – yes, a real white rat. But don’t worry, Christopher tells us it doesn’t have bubonic plague. I check out Twitter and one of the cast has put up pictures of two rats, in a dressing room (I bet they have to share) presumably taking it in turns every other night to go up on stage. Reassuringly the glossy black programme tells me that no animals were hurt in the making of this production. What a relief.
Animal stars aside, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a triumph that brings my sketchy memories of the book flooding back in stark and vivid detail.