#tweeting it: 5***** An emotional, poignant and, in parts, funny portrayal of the struggles of people with autism. This production is astonishing
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, adapted for stage by Simon Stephens from Mark Haddon’s mystery novel, is very much a work about obsessions. The more obvious of these obsessions are those of the protagonist, Christopher, portrayed quite amazingly by Scott Reid, who we meet crouched on the floor next to the corpse of the titular dog at the beginning of the play. They are clear and laid out, elucidated in character monologues, ably assisted by some fantastic LED based set design.
But what really draws this play together is its depiction of the equally life changing obsessions of the people around Christopher and how neither he nor the cast of characters around him really understand each other’s’ motivations. The audience, however, is left feeling like they have a better understanding of the challenges faced by both parents and sufferers of Autism and how ,for both, the world can be a strange and terrifying place.
A good example of this is Cristopher’s father, played by David Michaels. His reactions to the breakdown of his marriage, the stress of being Cristopher’s carer, the desire to make a better life for his son and his clear loneliness lead him to take actions we can’t really condone but can at least understand. We have all been sad, angry and lonely and therefore know the decision path he is taking.Christopher’s mother’s, although initially presented as a sympathetic character, has a host of her own flaws and her clear need for affection is exacerbated, but not caused by her son’s in ability to provide it.
By comparison Cristopher’s actions are initially incomprehensible, but through sensitive acting and some excellent set design his motivations are rendered crystal clear. I’ve mentioned the set a few times now but, consisting of 892 pixel LED lights embedded in the five tons of steel which make up a box like set on the stage, it is worth mentioning. Able to project a gird-lined mapping of Christopher’s thoughts before transitioning to a blaring red-lit chaos to represent the rush hour tube (something which, for me is all too familiar so I can only imagine how dealing with that as a child with autism or any learning difficult would be tough) , the set projects onto the audience a deeper understanding of Christopher’s challenges and thought patterns than perhaps dialogue alone would be able to do.
It is through this remarkable set design, coupled with excellent explanatory set pieces which include impressive and faultless physical theatre from the supporting cast to visually explain what is going on in Christopher’s mind, that the audience are able to couple their own innate understanding of human emotion with the confusion those same emotions evoke in someone with Christopher’s condition.This representation of obsession and motivation lead to understanding and while the overall message isn’t all that uplifting, Christopher’s final plaintively unanswered question stuck with me for a while, it is certainly very entertaining.
Exciting, comedic, poignant, thought provoking and in parts heart breaking, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time deals with a sensitive subject with a deft touch. After the first half, I walk from the auditorium and sigh, stating that it is a lot to take in after a long day at work, but then, perhaps that’s part of it – every moment of every day is a lot to take in for a character like Christopher. This production is emotionally intense but very enjoyable and very much something which has to be seen!
Book: Mark Haddon
Writer: Simon Stephens
Director: Marianne Elliott
On at the Marlowe until March 11 and then on your until September 2017 http://www.curiousonstage.com/tour
Republished following technical fault