Friday, May 30, 2014

'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time' adapted by Simon Stephens from the novel by Mark Haddon

30 May 2014

When I heard that Mark Haddon's novel 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time' was to be made into a stage play, my first reaction was that it felt like a mistake. Haddon's novel seemed a perfect miniature masterpiece, showing the world through prose written by a fifteen-year-old autistic boy and playing with the format of the written word story. Any stage adaptation would surely dilute the effect and end up as a poor substitute for the original novel. So I didn't get around to seeing the National Theatre production of Simon Stephens' adaptation. But last week I was persuaded to watch the NT Live cinema broadcast of the play (at Cineworld in Milton Keynes) and quickly realised the error of my lazy assumptions. This was an excellent theatrical experience, played in the round with a very clever set (by Bunny Christie), inventive use of physical theatre and movement (by Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett for Frantic Assembly) and wonderfully directed by Marianne Elliott. The play managed to be true to its source while inventing a theatrical frame for the story. I think this succeeded because the temptation to break the fourth wall was indulged very sparingly: most of the action was a careful and precise portrayal of events from the point of view of Christopher. Similarly, some brilliant moments of humour were all the funnier for their scarcity, with a serious tone set from the opening tableau of the eponymous dog impaled on a garden fork, brutal in its reality. The cast were all very strong and worked extremely hard in a variety of individual roles and crowd scenes but Luke Treadaway's performance as Christopher deservedly stole the show – 'A' star!

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