Based on the hit 2003 novel by Mark Haddon, the stage adaptation of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, directed by Marianne Elliott, is a charming production, offering insights into a much-misunderstood condition without getting pulled down into sentimentality or melodrama. While the novel may have succeeded in providing a fascinating narrative of its protagonist’s thoughts, Simon Stephens’ adaptation brings his world to life in a thrilling and imaginative way.
The play tells the story of 15 year-old Christopher Boone, who, although it’s never explicitly stated, seems to display the characteristics of Aspergers Syndrome. Obsessed with mathematics, patterns and Sherlock Holmes, Christopher sets out on an adventure to uncover the culprit behind the suspected murder of his neighbour’s dog. This investigation leads Christopher into a series of more complex mysteries: that of the disappearance of his mother, who he believed to be dead, and the often confusing and disorientating world of family relationships.
Christopher is played with great sensitivity and attention to detail by Luke Treadaway in an award-winning performance that keeps you spellbound until the very end. His performance is highly physical and often uncomfortable to witness, but takes you right into the psyche of his character.
The young actor is especially compelling when Christopher’s “behavioural problems” come to the forefront, triggered by confusion or disturbances, or by something as simple as physical contact. His inner turmoil is externalised by the play’s fantastic production design, led by Bunny Christie, who has created a multi-layered sensory experience for the audience that directly reflects Christopher’s emotional state. The effect is one that leaves the audience moved and mesmerised, providing insight into the autistic experience without resorting to dry exposition.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time debuted at the National’s Cottesloe Theatre, and has now moved to the Apollo Theatre. Having now picked up 7 Olivier Awards including Best New Play, there is no doubt that this production will continue to delight audiences for a long while to come.