Written by Simon Stephens, based on the novel by Mark Haddon
Directed by Marianne Elliott – Designed by Bunny ChristieLighting design by Paule Constable – Video designed by Finn Ross
Music by Adrian Sutton – Sound designed by Ian DickinsonProduced by the National Theatre of Great Britain
Canberra Theatre 27th – 30th June 2018Performance 27th June reviewed by Bill Stephens
|Joshua Jenkins as Christopher Boone|
Here is a play that really lives up to the description “stunning”. It’s stunning in several ways. The clarity with which it depicts the thought processes of the mind of its Asperger Syndrome afflicted main character, Christopher Boone, is stunning. Also stunning are the deeply revealing performance by Joshua Jenkins, the actor who portrays Christopher Boone, the inventiveness of Marianne Elliott’s award-winning direction, and the imaginative way the stage design embraces technology to enable complicated mathematical equations and shifts in perspective to become thrilling theatrical experiences.
Christopher Boone is a fifteen-year-old boy who, seven minutes after midnight, discovers Wellington, his neighbour’s dog, dead, having been speared with a pitch fork. Christopher has an extraordinary brain, is exceptional at maths, but ill-equipped to interpret daily life. He’s never ventured beyond the end of his road alone. He detests being touched. He distrusts strangers. Nevertheless, he decides to set out on a mission to discover who killed Wellington and his detective work, forbidden by his father, takes him on a frightening journey that turns his world upside down.
|Joshua Jenkins as Christopher Boone - Julie Hale as Siobhan|
It’s how Christopher’s journey is depicted, a combination of storytelling and spectacle that makes this production so compelling. Christopher uses mathematics as his mechanism for expression. His world is depicted as a black box in which the walls and floor are covered with grids on which he scribbles equations to explain his thoughts. At times he breaks the fourth wall to talk to the audience direct. In the first act, while he does this, he also puts together his train set, complete with buildings and trees, which, miraculously, comes alive as the scene climaxes.
His relationship with his estranged parents, played affectingly by Emma Beattie and Stuart Laing, is sometimes brutal, and it seems that the only person he really trusts with his innermost thoughts is his therapist, Siobhan (Julie Hale). All efforts to break through his defences, by his parents, his mother’s lover (Oliver Boot), a kindly station policeman (Bruce McGregor) and a variety of other people encountered during his journey are rebuffed. Not even the gift of an adorable puppy, by his father, is enough to win him over.
Yet, so clearly are his thought processes depicted, that it’s impossible not to be drawn into siding with Christopher and empathizing with his apparent intransigence. Which is why his final joyful declaration “I can do anything”, proves so surprisingly unnerving and worrying.
|Joshua Jenkins as Christopher Boone.|
As stunning as it most certainly is as a theatrical tour-de-force, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” is also enlightening, entertaining and absorbing.
Images by Brinkoff Mogenburg
This review first published in Australian Arts Review. www.artsreview.com.au