The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at Piccadilly Theatre
Bunny Christie’s cubic set-up at the Piccadilly Theatre makes a striking first impression and fits within the choreography of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time as perfectly as the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle – from the unlikely hero’s wall-climbing tactics to the table materialising from the staging without causing the slightest interference. With his crude investigation tactics, blunt observations and naïve outlook on life, Christopher Boone (Joshua Jenkins) proves an exceptional storyteller, his Asperger syndrome affording him the rare gift of “always tell[ing] the truth”. His narrative verisimilitude is not just reiterated mimetics, however, but will leave audiences in tears: both from laughter and from the bond that is so easily formed with the 15-year-old protagonist.
Christopher’s love of maths and his passion for astrophysics is ever-present – though not overpowering – in Marianne Elliott’s direction through the use of space and bodies, which serve as a human bed and human door, culminating in the character’s realisation of his dream, where he flies across the stage as if in space. For our autistic narrator, arithmetic is a tool to overcome difficult situations, and his capacity to transcend beyond what would otherwise be considered emotionally crippling scenarios reveals his maturity and intelligence. His parents’ reaction to the stress, in contrast, has violent repercussions that further complicate things for all those involved.
In a final scene, after Christopher celebrates being able to do anything he wants, he then turns for reassurance from his support teacher Siobhan (Julie Hale), asking “Can’t I?” She does not answer and instead looks pleadingly at the audience, forcing us to ponder the implications of a society where labelling becomes a limitation for some, despite the diversity and ingenious capacity behind those titles.
Simon Stephens’s adaptation of Mark Haddon’s ground-breaking book gives a voice where it is otherwise denied. By questioning the standards by which humanity is made to measure itself, the “behavioural problems” as perceived in society – and the structure upon which they function – is scrutinised.
The story begins with a murdered dog and ends with the nagging question of why we should succumb to a system that forces fish to climb trees rather than celebrating difference. It is the bond between father and son that is especially touching, and through which we can understand and sympathise with familiar human shortcomings and failures. The National Theatre’s stage adaptation of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is as applaudable, successful and insightful as the original novel.
Photo: Brinkhoff Mögenburg
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is at Picadilly Theatre from 29th November until 27th April 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.