Based on the novel of the same name, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is adapted for the stage by Simon Stephens, with this production directed by Marianne Elliott. It tells the story of 15 year old Christopher Boone, who has Asperger’s Syndrome- though this is never mentioned in the play. His condition means he cannot tolerate large spaces, crowds, strangers or being touched. However, he is also a maths whizz, loves animals and the colour red, has a real talent for building train sets and cannot lie. Christopher sets out to discover who killed his neighbour’s dog, and in doing so reveals secrets surrounding his family and his life which in turn cause him to run away.
The play is very cleverly presented as Christopher’s own story being presented as a school play, and we jump back and forth between various points in his life. The set by Bunny Christie is stunning; a giant electronic gridded cube which reflects the drawings Christopher makes on the floor as the play goes on, and which has compartments that open to reveal various props including vast amounts of train track which Christopher steadily builds throughout the first act. It is also used for projecting the number patterns that Christopher recites to calm himself.
The action flows seamlessly, and the level of trust among the cast is noticeable, particularly when actors are lifted to walk along side walls as if they were strolling down the street. As Christopher’s teacher, Siobhan, Geraldine Alexander does a great job of keeping us buried in the action, and her affection for Christopher is clear. Stuart Lang and Gina Isaac as Christopher’s parents remind us that his condition has wide reaching effects, and they clearly display the emotional toll that raising a child with additional needs can take on a family. However, it is Joshua Jenkins in the central role that really stands out. Christopher is not an easy role to play, and yet Jenkins brings him to life beautifully. We can empathise with his situations, we can laugh at his unintentional humour and we can root for him to achieve anything, because we believe in the character on stage. Jenkins fully embodies Christopher Boone and the entire play, from start to finish, was an absolute joy to watch.
When the lights came up at the end of the first act, I was that engrossed in the action that it took me a moment to remember where I was. At the end of the second act, a thunderous standing ovation was very well deserved, as was the additional applause for Jenkins after he had explained a mathematical equation to us. It might have gone right over my head, but it was still fascinating to listen to. I have not lost myself in a play like that for a very long time. If you get a chance to catch this production while on tour, I urge you to do so.