“I like maths, and I like outer space. And I also like being on my own”
One of the most successful plays of 2012 (and indeed my personal fourth-best play of the year) was the National Theatre’s adaptation of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time so it was little surprise to hear that it would transfer into the West End, albeit a little belatedly. So from the immersive in-the-round staging of the Cottesloe, it has now graduated to the much larger proscenium of the Apollo but where one might argue it has lost a little something of what made it so intimately special first time round, the transfer expands the physical and visual language of Marianne Elliott’s production to great effect to create something even more theatrical.
Mark Haddon’s novel was inescapable as it rose to cult status and it is impressive that Simon Stephens’ adaptation manages to create something new, albeit entirely recognisable, out of the story. I still remain unconvinced by the touch of meta-business of the characters putting on a play of the story that is largely narrated by Niamh Cusack’s achingly kind Siobhan, but otherwise it is a sensitive and witty re-telling of the tale of Christopher Boone, a teenager who sees the world in an entirely different way to many of us and who is swept up in a personal odyssey spearheaded by his discovery of the body of his neighbour’s dog with a garden fork through him.
The distinctiveness of Christopher’s vision is captured with incredible invention in Bunny Christie’s design, a sensory experience like no other in trying to portray something of the synaptic jumps that his brain makes. And matching the visual ingenuity is Frantic Assembly’s choreography (Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett) which tries to make sense of the difficulties he faces in trying to establish physical relationships, the touch of other people being something he avoids at all cost. Both of these aspects have been exploded beautifully into the larger space of the West End theatre, with breath-taking moments aplenty.
And leading the cast, with a performance that has already won a fosterIAN Best Actor award, is Luke Treadaway doing some simply extraordinary work. There’s never any hint of mockery or complacency in the detailed portrayal of a condition which is never specified (although commonly regarded to be Asperger’s) and he is magnetically, heartbreakingly, watchable with his teenage determination to solve the mysteries in his life. Nicola Walker and Paul Ritter have been replaced by Holly Aird and Seán Gleeson as his parents, struggling to always find the best way through with a son they can’t even hug and though I missed Walker’s raw desperation, Aird’s greater warmth was a nice new take on the character.
The rest of the ensemble rotate through a large number of supporting roles with an effortless ease – Sophie Duval nails several comic characters, Nick Sidi impresses across the board and Tilly Tremayne covers the role previously played by Una Stubbs – and Niamh Cusack, another fosterIAN award winner, is excellent once again. So much of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time is worth celebrating as some of the best acting, adaptation, design, direction, use of a puppy on a London stage at the moment, that you would be a fool not to go and book tickets now before they sell out.