The award-winning National Theatre Production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time comes to Birmingham, perfectly coinciding with World Autism Awareness Week.
Christopher Boon has found his neighbour’s dog murdered, he decides to investigate what has happened and who killed him. This is very much outside of his comfort zone and the more he investigates the more he reveals, leading to some uncomfortable discoveries.
From the start, it is clear that Christopher sees things differently to most people, his neurodiverse condition is never named but alluded to in the script. The novel (by Mark Haddon) on which this play is based, is written in the first person, which could be difficult to translate to the stage. However, by mixing live action with Christopher explaining his actions and narration by Siobhan (his teacher) reading from the book he is writing, the feel and details of the original novel are retained.
Christopher Boon is brought to life by Connor Curren, this role cannot be an easy one to play but Curren is excellent bringing humour and absolutely gut-wrenching emotion to the stage. You feel for the character and want him to succeed. The steadying presence of Siobhan is beautifully played by Rebecca Root as she helps Christopher through his journey of discovery. Ed and Judy Boone (Tom Peters and Kate Kordel) have some of the most emotionally charged scenes. Both show the conflict of a parent who wants the best for their child while meeting their own needs. Their scenes are touching and heart breaking in equal measures.
The ensemble is used to great effect, playing various roles, sometimes from the edge of the stage and other times in the thick of it. There are a number of scenes with the whole cast which are highly effective in illustrating how Christopher sees the world. Although not a dance show at times the movement of the cast is choreographed almost in a contemporary dance style adding to the visual effect and at times dream like quality as Christopher reminisces or thinks of his future.
Sound, lighting and the set play a huge part in the story telling and depiction of Christopher’s mind and the sensory overload he sometimes feels. The black and white graph paper set hides a number of doors, cupboards and drawers and doubles as video screens which projected (mainly in black and white) images to show locations in an abstract way or the workings of his mind. There are occasional flashes of colour in the lighting, but it is mainly white, once again showing the black and white way Christopher views the world. White boxes are used on stage during the show in increasingly varied ways, helping to set the scene with ease, without distraction.
While the book and the play are not necessarily about Autism or any other Neuro Diverse condition, it does highlight the challenges faced by everyone living with neurodiversity, either themselves or a family member. My eyes were opened to the challenges more by watching this than anything else.
This production will have you gripped, and even held the attention of various school groups in the audience. It is eye opening, heart-warming and unforgettable, reminding us that everyone is different but equally important.
Runs at the Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday 2nd April 2022, https://www.birminghamhippodrome.com/calendar/the-curious-incident-two/
Reviewer: Annette Nuttall
Reviewed: 29th March 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★