The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Tuesday 13 June 2017
Our Verdict: Excellent
Our Rating: 10/10
There are 7 more performances left of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at The Bristol Hippodrome. Each performance lasts for 2.5 hours, including a 20 minute interval. We arrived at 7pm and sat in seats R24 and R25 in the stalls.
There are 1951 seats in the Bristol Hippodrome auditorium. The seats are all red and 1951 is a prime number which all added up to a Very Good Show.
The touring National Theatre production is based on Mark Haddon’s novel of the same name. It is in fact a lie from the start. This is because the title of both book and play is taken from an 1892 Sherlock Holmes short story called Silver Blaze. It was a feature of interest in the Conan Doyle story that the stable dog did not bark when a race horse was stolen in the middle of the night.
‘To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.’ ‘ The dog did nothing in the night-time.’ That was the curious incident,’ remarked Sherlock Holmes. Thus begin the parallels between the two fictitious characters. Plays are also lies because they are people pretending to be people acting stories which again are also lies.
There are several features of interest in this clever stage adaptation of Haddon’s novel. The story follows 15 year old Swindon boy Christopher John Francis Boone. Christopher sets out to find out who killed his neighbour’s dog Wellington in the middle of the night. Christopher has Aspergers and is a gifted maths Savant. Being a fan of detective stories and of course Science of Deduction Sherlock Holmes, he soon solves more than one mystery which turns his and his family’s world upside down.
An interesting aspect that Simon Stephens’ stage adaptation shows, is that despite the tick box Aspergers lack of empathy that Christopher has, most of the neurotypical people he encounters during his adventure are equally so, to the point of disablist.
At Chopsy Baby, we are no stranger to Aspergers and if there is one thing to take away from this production, it’s the united feeling from members of the audience who are also having their own stories told on stage in a way that they can relate to.
Mark Haddon’s original story generally has some criticism about how he approaches The Monty Hall Problem as well as his ‘stereotypical’ depiction of Aspergers itself. It’s a shame because Scott Reid not only does a flawless job of creating Christopher, for me, his performance was endearing and beautiful. Of course not all people on the autism spectrum are the same. That’s why it’s a spectrum condition. But there is of course a strong diagnostic criteria based on a triad of impairment. Christopher Boone as a character is spot on and Scott Reid takes Haddon’s character and turns it into something wonderful – a child that many of us can recognise within our own, and, an unforgiving world that we cannot change for them.
David Michaels and Emma Beattie as Ed and Judy Boone, also excelled at showing us the gritty and sometimes unhappy reality of parenting a child on the autistic spectrum. I noticed something in this production which I missed last time the show was in Bristol – That’s the joy of watching the same show multiple times. Last time I missed the subtle sensory processing issues that Beattie shows Judy Boone having as she plays with the waves and sinks into the freezing sea. And of course, there is some inflexibility and inability to process and deal with difficult situations that Michael’s Ed shows.
Another point I would wish to draw your attention to is the marvellous set, lighting and video design which frees Christopher’s rigid world and gives us an insight into the way his mind processes information. There’s an interesting correlation between Finn Ross’ 2012 video design and Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss’ typographical portrayal of Cumberbatch’s Sherlock. This is something also obvious in Moffat’s Doctor Who The Eleventh Hour which first introduces Mat Smith as the Time Lord – another gifted and sometimes socially inept character. Both Moffat’s shows come from 2010 before Curious Incident on stage and interestingly perhaps to me alone, The Eleventh Hour, is also the name of a mid 90s computer puzzle game that Christopher plays in the original story. Of course, Sherlock Holmes is also one of Christopher’s Specialist Interests, The Hound of the Baskervilles being his favourite book.
There are rules you have to follow when you go to the theatre. These are things like don’t talk. Don’t rustle sweets. Don’t use your mobile phone. But these rules are confusing and don’t make sense to some people. This is because two members of the auditorium in the stalls forgot to turn their phones off, both of which rang and spoiled key moments of the play. What grade did Christopher get in his Maths A Level? I’m not sure because the answer was blotted out by swear words from the middle of Q row and around 20 people closing their mouths and breathing out loudly through their noses.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is precise, it’s mathematical, it’s real and as a work of art it’s magnificent.
It’s at The Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday evening when it finishes.