Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by the National Theatre

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time has been on my must-see list of shows for quite a while, so when I found out it was going on tour, I happily headed out to the New Theatre in Oxford to cross it off the list.

Based on the autobiographical book of the same name by Mark Haddon, the show concerns autistic teenager, Christopher, whose mother died several years previously, and who lives on his own with his Dad. When a neighbour’s dog is murdered with a garden fork, the body left on the front lawn for all to see, Christopher sets out to act detective and find out who committed the heinous crime, becoming more and more determined as the world tries to convince him to leave well alone. What transpires when he finally discovers the perpetrator and motivation for the crime, changes his life forever.

Christoper is a maths genius, and the set consists of a seemingly-solid box, configured as a 3-D space/time graph, using a myriad of points-of-light to illustrate his thoughts in mathematical-terms, as well as creating house schematics, underground train tracks and tube maps. It’s an impressively high-tech show, somewhat at odds with the occasional foray into physical, poor-theatre in which the ensemble create the environment with their bodies. More so as Christopher’s refrain of ‘don’t touch me’ is infringed time and time again through this device and, as an audience, we struggle to understand some of these directorial choices when a more high-tech option is clearly available.

Nevertheless, it’s a captivating show, and stays true to the book as it draws its audience into Christopher’s world, allowing us to understand and empathise with his peculiar view of his surroundings and the challenges he faces. Joshua Jenkins as Christopher has the showcase part, and plays it to the max, but the rest of the ensemble are as impressive, albeit less flamboyant, with particular mention going to Emmanuella Cole whose range of characterisations were remarkable.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is every bit as good as its reputation had led me to expect, and deserves a place in the history-books of British productions that will be remembered for decades to come.

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