Theatre review: Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Gielgud Theatre, W1D

London Cast 2014/15


Its acclaimed West End run ended abruptly last December when the ceiling of the Apollo Theatre collapsed mid-way through a performance.

But after a six month hiatus, Marianne Elliott’s production The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time resumed at the Gielgud Theatre in June – in the same year the show makes it to Broadway and the book on which it is based achieving national treasure status by becoming a GCSE set text.

With a string of Olivier Awards to its name, I have been desperate to see this play for a few years now and I wasn’t disappointed when I finally did.

Moving and thought provoking – but interspersed with humour along the way – the play based on Mark Haddon’s original novel of the same name tackles the story of a boy with learning difficulties and society’s attitude to him with warmth and sensitivity.

Haddon says he always regretted the term Asperger Syndrome appearing on the original cover of the book when it was first published – for a number of reasons, primarily because he asserts that we all have quirks making us different but are not necessarily classed as having a disability.

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Protagonist Christopher, 15, played superbly by Graham Butler, has an extraordinary brain, and is exceptional at maths. He even takes his A-level in the subject three years early – yet doesn’t know how to act in social situations, can’t bear to be touched and struggles to understand every day life.

His world is thrown into turmoil when he finds his neighbour’s dog Wellington lying dead in the garden, speared with a garden fork – and sets out to solve the mystery himself.

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But his detective work uncovers a disturbing truth and a subsequent a quest to track down his absent mother, which takes him from the home he shares with his father in Swindon to the bright lights and tumult of London, leaves him terrified.

The portrayal of his relationship with both parents and their struggle to understand and do what’s best for their own son is poignant and touching, with outstanding performances from Sarah Woodward as his mother Siobhan and Nicolas Tennant as father Ed.

But the outstandingly clever and imaginative set is what makes this so special – an interactive mathematical grid with maps, numbers and drawings depicting the inner workings of Christopher’s mind. And the scene where the stage comes alive with a miniature three dimensional replica London with all its twinkling lights and trains is breathtaking.

Although a couple of scenes felt slightly longer than they needed to be for no obvious gain, this is overall a charming and hugely significant piece of theatre which deserves its crown.

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