“This is a murder mystery novel” says Christopher Boone, as his book, with the support of his life skills teacher Siobhan, takes to the stage. A whodunnit like no other, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time follows Christopher as he sets out to find the killer of his neighbour’s dog, unaware that his investigation will lead to a startling revelation which upturns his entire world.
Christopher is 15 years 3 months and 2 days. He is a mathematical genius who loves outer space and being alone and thinks he could make a great astronaut. He describes himself as a mathematician with some behavioural difficulties. Mark Haddon’s novel, written in 2003 and now a national curriculum text, is superbly adapted for stage by Simon Stephens in the National Theatre’s first UK tour. Haddon wrote that his book “is not a book about Asperger’s, if anything it’s a novel about difference, about being an outsider, about seeing the world in a surprising and revealing way.” Having read the book and appreciated its unique voice and style, I wondered how many aspects of the story and how Christopher’s view of the world could be transferred to the stage. Any doubts were quickly cast aside as Christopher’s perspective of events and internal thoughts are conveyed convincingly thanks to the amazingly talented set designer, Bunny Christie, and video designer, Finn Ross.
The bold, geometric set, though stark and minimalistic, gives a clever insight into Christopher’s machine-like mind. Through the ingenious use of lighting, sound and projected images, the stage becomes a busy London train station, daunting underground, intimidating police station and even the entire universe at one point. An emotionally charged scene in which Christopher finds himself frantically rescuing Toby, his pet rat, from the tracks of the London underground, was so tense and traumatic, I found myself having to remember that no train was actually coming.
Christopher may have social challenges but he is brave and at times I found myself envious of his honest view of the world as we are the ones like his family who deal in lies and harbour dark secrets. Joshua Jenkins gave a sincere portrayal of Christopher. For two and a half hours he truly was Christopher Boone and we believed in him and his life. We shared his angst, we willed him on to success and laughed on his behalf at the absurdity of people’s reactions. His whole performance was exhilarating and emotional. Stuart Laing is natural as Ed, Christopher’s dad, who struggles to cope as a single parent and at times fails in his clumsy attempts to win Christopher’s affection.
This production from the National Theatre, has won no less than 7 Olivier awards, including Best Play in 2013, and following its London debut in August 2012, has gone on to great success on Broadway. The “Curious” as it has come to be known by legions of fans, now attracts something of a cult following and has been seen by half a million people worldwide. This is not a sentimental tale about Asperger’s, but a vibrant, fresh story of a family – a real family – with all its flaws and imperfections. With a film adaptation currently being planned, the future of this story looks set to flourish.
A word of advice: stay seated after the final curtain call for an added scene (never did I think I would be so entertained by a maths lecture but this maths lesson sparkles with confetti and all).