The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Maybe what’s most curious is how we do like a challenge – the National Theatre has not only risen to it
but well and truly hit the heights with this adaptation. They have taken a literary work whose hero, Christopher Boone, who with having something akin to Asperger’s, takes everything quite literally in his struggle to make sense of the world, and created an amazing transformation. A considerable amount of humour makes the poignance of the play even more piquant, and you can almost begin to appreciate how the elegance of mathermatical problems has a crucial role to play.
Meanwhile, on the other side, as it were, his parents, as well as teachers, neighbours, the strangers Christopher encounters, etc, strive to understand him. Discovering the eponymous dog dead sets him off on a quest with disturbing revelations on the way. The darkness of everyday problems is contrasted with the illumination of bright ideas, and Joshua Jenkins is absolutely brilliant throughout. As are the special effects: the use of lighting, sound, video and choreography to evoke the way in which he is often completely overwhelmed by what happens around him, helps to make us see and feel, or at least get some idea, of what life is like for him.
The fourth wall is demolished early on, the play being being based, as is the novel, on the book he is writing, and with his teacher, Siobhan (the excellent Geraldine Alexander), acting as the narrator. Admittedly, the domestic situation of his parents and their neighbours, the Shears, may seem too pat an arrangement but Stuart Laing (Ed) and Gina Isaac (Judy) are both marvellous as the longsuffering parents. If Roger Shears (Lucas Hare) seems a little pencilled in, and to a certain extent, Mrs S, Clare Perkins clearly relishes veering from foul-mouthed neighbour to the vapid yay-saying of headmistress, Mrs Gascoigne.
One of the most interesting aspects of this play, which goes all the way from simply heartwarming to fiendishly clever, is that in observing Christopher, we learn more about all the characters – it may also allow us to see ourselves as other see us. The conclusion however struck me as ambivalent, although the audience as a whole was willingly optimistic. So a standing ovation came as no surprise for this superb production.