The Creagh/Carr Review - your double-sided perspective of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday (November 7).
CREAGH SAYS .... This is almost unbearably in-your-face theatre, from the moment you walk into the auditorium and see a dead dog centre stage with a pitch fork piercing its rib cage to the unexpectedly tender end.
The award-winning novel about a young boy allegedly with Asperger Syndrome is now an award-winning play.
It’s a shocking, gripping and utterly absorbing story, which most of us are familiar with from Mark Haddon’s 2003 blockbuster.
Christopher - a mesmeric performance from Joshua Jenkins - can’t bear being touched.The 15-year-old at a special needs school has his little rituals to cope with every day life and escapes into mathematics when he can’t. He gingerly high fives his parents but that’s about as close as he gets to physical contact.
His tortuous journey to find who killed the dog is traced in a series of alarming encounters. He leaves the safety of his suburban home and the father he feels has betrayed him by claiming his mother was dead when she had in fact run off with the neighbour’s husband.
It’s a remarkable insight into the mind of someone with ‘behavioural difficulties,’ made even more dramatic by the stark black and white set. This cleverly morphs from a giant mathematical graph paper background into the London Underground and a terrifying scene where Christopher is almost killed by a train as he tries to rescue his pet rat Toby. The noise, flashing lights and confusion are incredibly real.
All the supporting roles are well played, from story narrator Siobhan (Geraldine Alexander) to troubled dad Ed (Stuart Laing) and hippyish mum Judy (Gina Isaac).
The first night audience gave the cast a standing ovation. And rightly so
CARR SAYS ... This may be one of the most unusual theatre productions touring the regions this year.
I read Mark Haddon’s novel years ago and I remember being quite dubious about how it would translate to stage.
The plot follows brilliant 15-year-old Christopher Boyes, a keen young mathematician who suffers from a condition akin to Asperger Syndrome.
After a gruesome discovery of a dead dog run through with a pitchfork, he embarks on a quest to find who carried out the murder, taking him from his hometown of Swindon across to London.
At times the difficulties posed by his condition set in - he cannot emotionally read between the lines - but his crisp-clear logic ultimately leads him to the truth.
Joshua Jenkins puts in a passionate performance as Christopher, with an infectious enthusiasm that makes his adventure come alive.
I particularly enjoyed the performances of Christopher’s parents (Stuart Laing and Dinas Isaac) who come across far more sympathetically on the stage, speaking their own words, than they do in the novel.
But the real brilliance comes in the staging of the play.
To show the overwhelming stimulus of modern life on Christopher, the set itself becomes a kaleidoscope of bright lights, shrieking signs, and grid patterns, all used to demonstrate his intense experience of the world.
It might not be classic theatre, but The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night Time is an engaging, original and visually stunning piece of drama that is well deserving of its hype.
The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night Time plays at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday. See here for tickets.