Theatre Review: Curious Incident Of A Dog In The Night Time

It’s fantastic that the National Theatre’s exemplary production didn’t disappear when the ceiling of the Apollo Theatre came down during a performance last December.

Now re-cast and re-located up Shaftesbury Avenue, this ensemble piece based on Mark Haddon’s book about a teenage boy with Asperger’s is a brilliant synergy of set design, direction and performance that shows theatre at its best – visually exciting, heart-breaking and hilarious in equal measure.

Graham Butler captures the bewilderment and singular logic of Christopher Boone, whose quest to discover the killer of his neighbour’s dog leads him to solve a far greater mystery about his parents’ collapsed marriage.

The beauty of Haddon’s book lies in seeing the world through the eyes of someone who struggles to read others’ emotions and conversational subtext.

Simon Stephens’ deft adaptation, under Marianne Elliott’s bold, expressionistic direction, illustrates these moments as sometimes amusing, sometimes painful.

During Christopher’s conversations with therapist Siobhan he draws facial expressions to learn moods, and constructs an elaborate train track to deflect from his confusion over his mother’s departure. His inability to touch or express love for his parents is hardest of all.

Aided by gravity-defying physical theatre work courtesy of Frantic Assembly, Christopher’s odyssey from Swindon to Willesden Green dramatises just how terrifying the over-stimulated urban landscape can be for someone who can’t cope with change.

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Bunny Christie’s clever cube-set with multiple projections, is a reflection of Christopher’s inner world, it lights up like a switchboard when he’s over-stimulated, becomes graph paper to solve a maths puzzle or – beautifully – drops electronic rain.

The ticker-tape joy of the post-curtain call solving of an equation on Chris’s A-Level paper is an upbeat note in a show that unsentimentally walks a canny line between portraying disability as a curse and a blessing.

Until further notice.

Five out of five stars.