Review: Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
There is a moment in Simon Stephens' stage adaptation of the 2004 bestseller, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, when hero and narrator Christopher notes that drama is a fib.
"It's about things that aren't true," the boy with Asperger's declares angrily. Yet as his teacher Siobhan points out, truth isn't always simple. And Christopher himself admits to liking stories involving the fictional Sherlock Holmes, as you might guess from the title.
In a stellar National Theatre touring production, we got an impressive insight into the human condition at the Grand Opera House.
It's amazing how well the story has translated to the stage. In a very faithful dramatisation which borrows freely from Mark Haddon's original text, we hear Christopher's voice. He's sometimes clever, sometimes confused, sometimes funny, and sees everything.
So we do too, noting on the way what doesn't add up in the adult, non-Asperger's world around him. The scene where Christopher's father, Ed (superb David Michaels), reacts angrily when he sees his son is investigating the killing of Wellington the dog was affecting, although we don't yet quite know why. The scene where he hit the 15-year-old painful but revealing.
Scott Reid as Christopher is a revelation, showing first class physical acting skills, like the rest of the cast. He tilts, he runs, he deciphers maths, he talks precisely and we get his condition. He and excellent Emma Beattie as his mother also had some memorable scenes.
There is also humour in this tale of an ordinary family coping, not always well, with extraordinary circumstances. Mrs Alexander (Debra Michaels) gossiping about Christopher's parents, while trying to describe the Battenberg cake she's offering him, was wry. Christopher's words about metaphors were delightful.
This is ultimately a show about difference and how we see things. The brilliantly designed set by Bunny Christie which acts as a screen for some very special visual effects, from scientific formulae to a glorious night sky, is a version of Christopher's mind. His risky trip to London in which we experience the aggressive city as he does, with everything in your face, was brilliantly done.
The ending is happy as Christopher gains his A-star A level in maths, not to mention a (real) puppy, Sandy, which caused the audience to deliver a collective Aaah!. Interestingly, the statement at the end of the story originally intended for the teen fiction market has turned into a question. Christopher asks his teacher Siobhan (Lucianne McEvoy) after getting his result and planning an intellectual life as a scentists, with Sandy, "That means I can do anything, doesn't it?".
There isn't an easy answer.