Pros: Superb from start to finish; a particularly outstanding performance from Luke Treadaway.
Cons: I was wavering at the end of the first half between four or five stars, the second half sealed its fate. Not sure if that counts?
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have high hopes for this stage adaptation of Mark Haddon’s world-famous novel (which I must confess to never having read). The National have really hit the mark here; it’s wonderfully creative, and set in the Cottesloe, the venue which allows for greater risk-taking, it succeeds in delivering a magnificently colourful evening of theatre. Laughter, tears (or lumps in the throat for the real men) and a truly memorable central performance, Marianne Elliott’s production has it all.
For those of you who, like me, have never read the book, it essentially follows the story of a young lad called Christopher Froome, who (although it is never specified) we assume to be quite severely autistic. Brilliantly intelligent, but socially unaware, Christopher stumbles across the body of his neighbour’s dead dog, and his resulting quest to find out ‘whodunit’ leads him on a bizarre journey. It’s obviously a very good base for Simon Stephens to work from, and his adaptation is excellent. Obviously I can’t tell how it compares to the book, but to be honest I don’t really think it matters. It’s a deeply moving story from start to finish, and more importantly it’s staged with real flare and creativity.
As soon as I walked into the Cottesloe, I was in a different world, a world of numbers and geometric shapes. Christopher’s world to be precise. Bunny Christie’s design is something special; the Cottesloe has been arranged to be fully in the round with a mathematical grid laid out on the floor. I was sat in prime position (a reference which you’ll better understand when you go and see it!) on the front row, and the whole auditorium really does feel like a different universe. Paule Constable’s fantastic lights complement the design perfectly, and Finn Ross’ superb video design also plays a big part in generating a truly atmospheric auditorium, especially at the end (hint: stick around after the curtain call).
All these elements are of course held together by some superb performances. Nicola Walker always has an excellent stage presence, and as Christopher’s kind but ultimately cowardly Mother she delivers another great performance. Similarly, Paul Ritter is wonderful as the out-of-his depth Father, trying desperately to balance his working life, his temper and his desire to look after his troubled son. It’s a performance which I had mixed emotional reactions to, at one time feeling disgusted with him and at another feeling deeply sympathetic, but it’s undoubtedly another brilliant portrayal.
The centrepiece of the show is Luke Treadaway’s stunningly good performance as Christopher himself. It must be an extremely difficult role to play; a mathematical genius on the one hand, and socially naïve and simple on the other, however Treadaway delivers something truly special. You really do find yourself feeling part of his world, rooting for him as he goes on his journey. In places it’s really quite upsetting to see how he is treated, and this is testament to the way in which Treadaway captures the hearts and minds of the audience through this fantastic portrayal.
So the National have done it again and justified their tax-payer funded existence in style! This production is something really special, and something that you must not miss. From the intriguing story, to the atmospheric combination of set, light and video, to a truly remarkable central performance, this is the best theatre producing company in the world delivering at its highest level. If that isn’t enough to persuade you, then be advised that it also stars a live puppy, which damn near stole the show from Christopher himself.
Author: Mark Haddon, adapted by Simon Stephens
Directed by: Marianne Elliott
Booking Until: Now running at the Gielgud Theatre until 24th Oct 2015
Booking Link: http://www.showsinlondon.co.uk/show/the-curious-incident-of-the-dog-in-the-night-time