Tom Lainchbury

Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time @ Newcastle's Theatre Royal

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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time

A stage production that begins with a pitchfork sticking out of a dog should have no trouble capturing your attention. However, such a startling opening scene isn’t what made The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time such a captivating viewing experience at Newcastle’s Theatre Royal last week (February 7).

A thought-provoking and emotive production, The Curious Incident’s simplicity and perspective is what makes it linger in the mind of its audience. A story so unique has no trouble in hooking its audience, but keeping them hooked through a stage performance where the story comes solely from the perspective of one character, and with very few props, is a far more impressive achievement.

In reality it should be no mystery that The Curious Incident has been a success in theatres up and down the country. Based on an award-winning book, making the transition to a successful stage show seems straightforward; few theatre productions can claim to be a murder mystery story from the perspective of a character with Asperger’s syndrome.

The story is cleverly narrated throughout; rather than being in the first person, the story is presented as a reading of Christopher’s writing. This allows the production to stay true to the book, but also effectively propels the story through what is a very fast-paced production. The clever staging means only a couple of props are used throughout the entire play, which in turn allows scenes to continue at this quick pace without the need to pause to clear the stage. This contributes to the feeling that the audience are truly involved in Christopher’s hectic life as he attempts to solve the mystery of his neighbours dead dog, while simultaneously tackling the difficulties that come with living with autism. 

A play that can demonstrate the complexity of modern life to such a complex mind deserves some recognition, as does the actor, who so successfully portrays such a unique character. Joshua Jenkins’ performance as 15-year-old Christopher Boone is both convincing and impressive, both in his ability to play such a young, complicated character, but also in the way that he conveys the unique perspective of the life of someone with autism. 

The book was a success as it provided readers with a well written, unique perspective; the stage adaptation is equally well written, but the unique perspective is all the more poignant. The Curious Incident is a sensitive and understanding portrayal of many aspects of living with Asperger’s. The personal difficulties and emotional toll of many aspects of Asperger’s were well represented through audio and visual aids, which made the performance both more understandable as well as unpredictable.

An intelligent and unique production, A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time is deserving of the recognition it has achieved. Its self referential comedy makes it an entertaining watch as well as a fascinating insight into the mind of someone with autism.

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