The set is much the same as it was when The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time first played at the National Theatre in 2012. The show’s original West End run was truncated after a section of the roof of the Apollo Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue collapsed during a performance (a comedian who shall remain nameless remarked later that “everyone got plastered”) and there is no doubting its commercial success in Britain and overseas. It remains incredibly briskly-paced – Christopher Boone (Connor Curren) darts about the stage at speed for some time in a scene just before the end of the first half.
The staging is kept relatively straightforward, though it is clear much thought has gone into it: a whole team of people spend a good portion of the interval clearing the stage of the various props that were gradually added. Otherwise, there is no revolve, and there are no sweeping set changes – indeed, the set is so sparse there isn’t a bed in a bedroom or tables and chairs in a classroom. And yet, it doesn’t matter, for two reasons. Firstly, it would slow the production down, perhaps only by seconds per scene, but that is enough to dull the heightened atmosphere created by the show.
Secondly, the script provides sufficient detail anyway, every so often enhanced by video projections. Much has been made of Curren in the lead role being an autistic actor playing an autistic character. I do not intend to comment further on this point, not for fear of saying the ‘wrong’ thing, but because the autistic spectrum is so broad, and exhibited behaviours of many autistic people bear no relation to how Christopher Boone interacts with other people (or, indeed, doesn’t interact with others) and the world around him. Sophie Stone’s Judy (Christopher’s mother) provides a form of theatricalised signing that is more accessible than British Sign Language – Stone was the first deaf person to study at RADA – and the character is suitably emotionally expressive, a counterbalance to Christopher’s stilted emotional responses.
Not that Christopher doesn’t get emotional – there’s a particularly strong reaction, for instance, when his father Ed (Tom Peters), who betrayed the boy’s trust for reasons explained in the narrative, makes an unannounced visit. But when his tutor Siobhan (Rebecca Root) asks if he is at all pleased with his performance in a public examination, he deadpans, “Yes. It’s the best result.” Taking the audience on a journey, both literally and metaphorically, there are an astonishing number of obstacles Christopher overcomes along the way. Some are more relatable than others – I reacted with a mixture of laughter and despair at the customer ‘service’ provided to Christopher by railway staff. I don’t think I’ve ever been so riveted by a London Underground journey.
It always amuses me when seeing The Curious Incident how the dynamics of the show change so suddenly and dramatically by the appearance of (an actual) puppy in a late scene. The production is evidently committed to animal welfare: the strobe lighting, sound effects and pulsating music all disappear, and no character raises their voice in the puppy scene. That the audience’s reactions are so audible in the theatre is indicative of how quiet the stage becomes.
Gripping and warmly intense from start to finish, this blockbuster hit is safe in the hands of its newest cast. It’s worth hanging around after the curtain call for the show’s postscript for yet more from Christopher’s intelligent and inquisitive mind. A heartfelt and absorbing production.
Review by Chris Omaweng
The National Theatre’s Olivier and Tony Award® winning production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time returns to London for seven weeks only at Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre.
Director Marianne Elliott’s ‘life-affirming and unmissable’ smash hit production brings Mark Haddon’s best-selling novel to thrilling life on stage.
Fifteen-year-old Christopher has an extraordinary brain. He is exceptional at maths, while everyday life presents some barriers. He has never ventured alone beyond the end of his road, he detests being touched and he distrusts strangers. When he falls under suspicion for killing his neighbour’s dog, it takes him on a journey that upturns his world.
Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre
20 November 2021 – 9 January 2022
Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre, 3 Fulton Rd, Wembley Park, HA9 0SP