The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time takes us into the world of fifteen-year-old Christopher Boone played beautifully by Joshua Jenkins. The play begins with Christopher discovering the neighbour’s dog Wellington, dead in the backyard with a garden fork sticking out of his abdomen. The neighbour blames Christopher for the crime and thus begins a journey of discovery where Christopher tries to find the real killer, while later navigating a busy and overwhelming city to find his mom.
Though not explicitly stated, Christopher has autism and the script along with the magnificent stagecraft allows the audience to experience something of what it must be like to live with this condition. Explosions of bright lights, a cacophony of sounds, the uncomfortable interactions with people. But we also experience the calming balm of what can be controlled—here, his interaction with his pet rat and his focus on numbers and math problems.
Based on the popular novel written by Mark Haddon, inspired to write the book because of his earlier career working with people with autism, it has been adapted for the stage by Simon Stephens. First staged in London, it went on to have a successful New York run and won a slew of awards including several Tonys. I certainly can’t talk about this show without giving huge kudos to the creative team. They take a fairly strong script, and with their spectacular display of lights, sounds, projections, and set, propel the show onto an entirely different plane. Interestingly, I am not sure the script would have the same kind of power without the stagecraft, which almost becomes a secondary character.
Designer Bunny Christie creates a tight square box of a set, ringed with bright lights which grow brighter or dimmer according to the action of the scene. Within the box, there are many storage drawers that are popped open to add various props and set pieces, most impressively a train set which is set up during the first act. Lighting designer Paule Constable washes the stage with bright and vibrant primary colors and Finn Ross’ video design flits effortlessly across the walls, taking us to various locations in the mind of the lead, or the streets of London. Sound design created by Ian Dickinson and music by Adrian Sutton brings a dramatic and intense soundscape that at times is overwhelmingly intense yet effective.
The acting across the board was strong. Christopher Boone does some lovely work with a very challenging character. I wasn’t sure I entirely bought him as a fifteen-year-old boy in the first act, but he had me convinced by the end of the second. Emma Beattie does some superbly nuanced work as his mother Judy. She brings an intimacy to her performance that is truly riveting. Julie Hale shines as Siobhan, the hard-working and caring counsellor. The rest of the company is strong as well, bringing multiple characters alive and much needed comedic bits in the second act. They also performed graceful and powerful choreography pieces along with Boone. The movement was created by Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett and it was really something to remember.
I spoke to a woman in the audience who has seen both London runs of the show and she said this production was every bit as strong. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a powerful and moving piece that will leave you thinking about it for days. Make sure you stay after the current call is over for a little bonus scene.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time runs now through November 19 at the Princess of Wales Theatre. For more information and tickets, please visit: mirvish.com