It’s easy to see why The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time has captured the imagination of audiences all around the world.
The acting is brilliant, the staging innovative and the story engrossing.
Having not read Mark Haddon’s hugely popular 2003 novel of the same name, I wasn’t sure what to expect.
After seeing the multi-award winning play, adapted for the stage by playwright Simon Stephens, I assumed Christopher Boone, on whom the book and play is based, was on the autism spectrum. However on releasing his book, Haddon said he had never `diagnosed’ Christopher.
The 15-year-old certainly has a number of traits common to those with Asperger’s. He has an extraordinary brain, being exceptional at maths and physics, but he finds interpreting everyday life challenging at times. He can easily get overwhelmed by loud noises and commotion, he loves routine, takes conversations literally and can’t tell a lie.
Christopher also distrusts strangers and has never ventured alone beyond the end of his road. But when he discovers the body of a neighbour’s dog which has been speared to death with a gardening fork, he decides he has to investigate. This results in his life being turned upside down as he faces numerous personal, emotional and physical challenges.
Siobhan, a teacher at the special school he attends, suggests he writes down his experiences which she then turns into a school play.
One of the greatest challenges in bringing The Curious Incident to the stage is capturing Christopher’s experiences and inner most thoughts.
Director Marianne Elliott and her creative team achieve this brilliantly by using high tech projections, lighting, video, sound and choreography. She also has Siobhan read parts of Christopher’s story out loud, questioning him on different aspects.
The Australian production, presented by the Melbourne Theatre Company and Arts Centre Melbourne, features a full UK touring cast who were on stage in Amsterdam and Toronto before coming to Melbourne.
Joshua Jenkins gives a wonderful performance as Christopher. He’s supported by David Michaels as his father Ed and Emma Beattie as his mother Judy. Both expertly demonstrate the challenges facing the parents of children with special needs. Julie Hale is excellent as the supportive Siobhan while other cast members play a host of cameo roles and provide the choreography which is used at times to illustrate Christopher’s confusion.
Gaining an understanding of the thoughts and challenges facing those (and their loved ones) who think and act differently from the `norm’ is one of the highlights of The Curious Incident. This together with the acting, staging and story ensures a memorable and enjoyable theatrical experience.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time is playing at Arts Centre Melbourne’s Playhouse Theatre until February 25. Visit the Melbourne Theatre Company website for more information.
*Photo credit: BrinkhoffMögenburg
Jenny Burns attended the opening night of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time as a guest of the Melbourne Theatre Company.
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