Monday, 29 April 2013
THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME ****1/2
THEATRE: Apollo, London
WITH: Luke Treadaway, Sean Gleeson, Holly Aird, Niamh Cusack, Tilly Tremayne, Sophie Duval, Nick Sidi, Rhiannon Harper Rafferty, Howard Ward & Matthew Baker
DIRECTOR: Marianne Elliott
CHOREOGRAPHER: Steven Hoggett, Scott Graham
“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” based on Mark Haddon’s bestseller, was an instant hit last year at the National Theatre. Now Marianne Elliott’s glorious production has transferred to the West End, with Luke Treadway’s astonishing central performance intact, where it continues to capture hearts of all ages and stimulate imagination with awe-inspiring skill. No wonder the production has just received 7 Olivier Awards!
The play starts off with an arresting image: a dead dog run through with a garden fork and a 15-year-old boy, Christopher (Treadaway), kneeling beside it. Christopher turns out to have Asperger syndrome (a form of autism) and (as he is an admirer of Sherlock Holmes) decides to solve the case of murdered Wellington (the dog). Throughout the investigation Christopher, a math prodigy, tries to make sense of the puzzling world around him and has to cope with some startling family secrets.
Simon Stephens (Punk Rock) has done a bang-up job in adapting the book for the stage. He has a teacher (Niamh Cusack) reading Christopher’s autobiographical book aloud and telling his story to the audience. In the second act the book is staged as Christopher's school play. This wonderful device frames the story organically in a theatrical way and intimately explores truth and lies through the eyes of a boy who is unable to lie because of his condition.
Elliott (War Horse, Harper Regan) and her amazing creative team have turned Stephens’s play into a theatrical extravaganza that also touches the heart. The brilliant movement by Steven Hoggett and Scott Graham give the production an intoxicating otherworldly quality. They have Christopher, for example, ingeniously floating through space and vertically running up and down Bunny Christie’s incredible graph-paper walls, which house Christopher’s storage boxes, climbing devices, an escalator, and many more treasures. Christie's walls create a magical space with all sorts of delightful surprises, which are poetically and playfully lit by the great Paule Constable.
The ensemble acting is quite impressive and Elliott has her cast morph convincingly into several characters, objects and extensions of Christopher! Sean Gleeson and Holly Aird are especially wonderful as Christopher’s troubled parents. They skilfully bring out all the complexity of their flawed characters. All this great work, however, would probably be in vain if the production did not have an incredible Christopher. Luckily Treadaway is that and more. His is an astonishingly impressive physical and emotional performance that stays with you long after the play has ended.
The Curious Incident is a charming delight and features some great suspense sequences, like the brilliantly conceived and executed adventure (or nightmare) in London’s underground. This play gives us a new kind of stage hero, whose fate ends on an ambiguous note. This is London theatre at its best!
I advice everyone to stay in their seats after the curtain call, because Treadaway has a mathematical treat in store. It will send you off with a big smile on your face as you walk out onto bustling Shaftesbury Avenue, somehow seeing the world anew.