The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - August 2015
The last time I saw something as avant garde on stage it was The Emigres at the Young Vic, London, back in 1975.
Okay I am talking about acting – no dancing, no singing so Matthew Bourne’s ballet masterpiece The Car Man doesn’t count.
Forty years is a long time in theatre...
Yet I wasn’t keen on going to see The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time which opened at the Bristol Hippodrome this week.
Well the title itself is confused.com - is it a ‘whodunnit’ or ‘who didn’t do it’ what is it all about?
Based on a first novel by British writer Mark Haddon the book written in 2003 is an A-level English set text read by one of the teenaged grandchildren who recommends it but other than that I didn’t know what to think.
Oh and it’s set in the railway town Swindon a town whose only other claim to fame, to put it in perspective, is that both Diana Dors and Melinda Messenger were born there.
The title The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a quote by the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes in Arthur Conan Doyle's 1892 short story Silver Blaze.
Walking into the stalls – I’ll skip the bit where we sat in the wrong seats and nearly held up the performance – we overheard someone saying loudly ‘I know who did it’.
Shut up or you’ll spoil it for the rest of us.
The stage is like the inside of a giant cardboard box divided into small black and white squares – think Alice in Wonderland just after she takes the ‘drink me’ bottle and shrinks.
In the middle of the floor is a dead dog with a garden fork stuck in its abdomen.
Not a real dog I hasten to say, a prop.
In the play we have two ‘fucks’ with the first few moments of dialogue which sort of sets the scene.
And then it really gets going.
There wasn’t a moment I lost concentration or my mind wandered off somewhere else as it is so totally engaging so much so I could easily watch it again and again.
Many of the 16-strong cast took multiple parts from neighbours to policemen, from ticket collectors to fellow travellers but every word-perfect character has distinctive mannerisms, dialect and presence.
Welsh actor Joshua Jenkins, aged 27, and in his National Theatre debut plays 15-year-old Christopher John Francis Boone a boy with autism whose pedantic approach to life is both exasperating and confusing for him and those around him.
Christopher John Francis Boone doesn’t like touch, lies, strange toilets, yellow or brown colours and is perplexed by the mysteries of a Battenburg cake and people speaking in metaphors.
The world is a bewildering place and while he gets bogged down with small details he appears to understand the complexes of the universe and space travel.
Yet he is capable of labelling fellow students at his special school as ‘stupid’ and yearns to sit his A-level maths three years early.
He said: “All the other children at my school are stupid.
“Except I'm not meant to call them stupid, even though this is what they are.”
He gets pleasure from his pet rat, prime numbers and his train set.
His inner trauma at understanding is demonstrated on stage by an electronic chalk face, psychedelic noises and a wall mounted underground map with lights for joined up thinking.
His teacher Siobhan played by the wonderful Geraldine Alexander is tasked with giving him coping strategies.
Set in 1998 in the working class family Christopher John Francis Boone becomes detective to solve who killed Wellington the dog which was speared with a garden fork at seven minutes after midnight precisely.
It begins with the dead of a dog and ends with...no I am not going to give it away but you must see this play.
You laugh when Christopher John Francis Boone puts up his hoodie when hearing someone is going to ‘shit on you from a great height’, you sit on the edge of your seat when he climbs down on the underground to rescue Toby the rat, you feel his pain when he wets his pants or his parents argue loudly about infidelity and gasp in amazement when the train set is connected on the floor.
Stuart Laing and Gina Isaac as his parents Ed and Judy are great and huge praise goes also to the designer, lighting designer and video designer - Bunny Christie, Paule Constable and Finn Ross – who between them have constructed a visually stunning show, and to movement directors Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett, of Frantic Assembly, who have choreographed every step to perfection.
This award-winning show is directed by Marianne Elliot and adapted from the book by Simon Stephens
This play may make you view your neighbours differently and in a one-man epilogue you will learn how to solve a complex mathematical equation based on the Pythagorus Theorem, right.
In this first person narrative Joshua Jenkins goes from prime suspect to ace detective supported by a multi-talented ensemble who all received a well-deserved standing ovation on Tuesday night.
This National Theatre’s production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is on UK tour and is at the Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday, August 8
"Curious Incident is not a book about Asperger syndrome.
"It’s a novel whose central character describes himself as ‘a mathematician with some behavioural difficulties’.
"Indeed he never uses the words ‘Asperger’ or ‘autism’ and I slightly regret that fact that the word ‘Asperger’ was used on the book cover.
"If anything it’s a novel about difference, about being an outsider, about seeing the world in a surprising and revealing way.
"It’s as much a novel about us as it is about Christopher," author Mark Haddon
Pre show publicity by Bristol Hippodrome marketing team included drawing outline of dead dog detective-style on local pavements - at Nailsea there were three, outside the library at Crown Glass shoping centre, at the entrance to Millennium Park opposite Tesco and at Dogs Palace the pet pamper place at High Street - did you spot the chalk marks - are they still there?
PREVIEW: Storytelling spectacle
‘A beautiful, dazzlingly inventive
show about the wonders of life’
The National Theatre’s production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is on UK tour and hits the Bristol Hippodrome from Tuesday to Saturday, August 4-8.
This show was one of the big winners at the prestigious Tony Awards at the Radio City Music Hall, New York, in June this year.
It won five awards for best play - Simon Stephens, best direction of a play - Marianne Elliott, best performance by a leading actor in a play - Alex Sharp as Christopher Boone, best lighting design of a play – Paule Constable and best scenic design of a play – Bunny Christie and Finn Ross.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which started life at the National Theatre’s Cottesloe Theatre in 2012, transferred to the West End in 2013 (winning seven Olivier awards) and is now simultaneously running at the Gielgud Theatre in London’s West End, on Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre and on a major tour of the UK and Ireland.
Director Marianne Elliot said: ‘I’m absolutely thrilled and honoured that we have won five Tony awards, and that our show has been as embraced by audiences in New York, as it has been in London and on this amazing tour of the UK and Ireland, which has been thrilling audiences since it began late last year.
"When we first started working on this show we had no idea whether there would be an audience for it.
2We were all working outside our comfort zones, all trying to do something we believed in utterly but which meant taking risks.
"It was incredible to see the audience at the National Theatre, then for that to grow in to the West End.
"To have even the slightest idea that it would go to Broadway, let alone to win these awards is incredible”
The storyine is 'curious' and opens with Christopher, aged 15, standing besides Mrs Shears’ dead dog.
It has been speared with a garden fork, it is seven minutes after midnight and Christopher is under suspicion.
He records each fact in a book he is writing to solve the mystery of who murdered Wellington.
He has an extraordinary brain, and is exceptional at maths while ill-equipped to interpret everyday life.
He has never ventured alone beyond the end of his road, he detests being touched and distrusts strangers.
But his detective work, forbidden by his father, takes him on a frightening journey that upturns his world.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is by Simon Stephens, adapted from Mark Haddon’s best-selling novel.
The show stars Joshua Jenkins, Geraldine Alexander, Gina Isaacs, Stuart Laing, Roberta Kerr and Clare Perkins.
For tickets click HERE.