"The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time"
It’s always good for those of whose experience of theatre is generally of the “two blokes in the back room of a pub” variety to catch some lavish West End-style spectacle every now and again. So, when it was announced that the Royal National Theatre’s UK tour of Simon Stephens’ adaptation of Mark Haddon’s hugely successful novel “The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time” was visiting the Wales Millennium Centre, I booked uncharacteristically early.
It’s the story of Christopher, a 15 year-old with an Aspergers-style disorder and very poor social skills, who, embarking upon a Holmesian investigation of the murder of a neighbour’s pet, ends up discovering that the world of grown-up relationships is infinitely more illogical than the maths equations in which he finds solace. The narrative is a simple one; and the lead actors - Joshua Jenkins as Christopher, Stuart Laing as his exasperated father, Geraldine Alexander as his devoted teacher, Gina Isaac as his unhappy mother – are gifted with sympathetic roles.
It is the production itself which is truly breath-taking. The set is an open black cube with spectacular video and lighting effects giving some sort of insight into Christopher’s disordered, numbers-oriented thinking. In addition, director Marianne Elliot, working with Frantic Assembly, also uses a lot of organic, physical theatre techniques, such that the ensemble simulates all manner of concepts and inanimate objects; providing the human contact from which the central protagonist shrinks in the real world. Even from the rear of the circle the visuals were startlingly beautiful.
And yes, the piece is shamelessly emotionally manipulative (watch out for the puppy!), and there is the danger of glamorising an autistic-spectrum disorder. It is made clear, though, how difficult life with Christopher is; and during the interval, I saw some fellow audience-members, an older couple, consoling one another, suggesting that the piece was accurate enough to stir up painful memories.
I suspect that even without the Hollywood-style production values, “The Curious Incident…” would succeed as a funny, moving, resonant piece of work. It is the spectacle, though, which transforms a not entirely unfamiliar tale into a remarkable experience.
(Photo of London Cast)
Over the weekend, in my capacity as a trainee facilitator, I was fortunate enough to attend the first Youth Arts Network Cymru Conference in Aberystwyth. Some pleasant networking, a useful workshop from playwright Bethan Marlow in conjunction with artist Shaun Featherstone; and an entertaining introduction to the work of video-artists Foxy and Husk.
Ramalama (Bang Bang) - Foxy and Husk from Foxy and Husk on Vimeo.