Reviewed for The Reviews Hub:
The National Theatre’s adaptation of Mark Haddon’s novel may be out to bow out of the West End shortly, but the touring production – returning to Aylesbury after its first visit in 2015 – is still going strong, and continues to shine a light on the challenges of a family whose son has behavioural difficulties in a visually dazzling and entertaining manner.
Haddon’s novel is written in the first person, offering the world an intimate, personal look at themselves through the eyes of 15-year-old Christopher (Scott Reid). Although Christopher’s condition is never explicitly diagnosed, he exhibits characteristics of high-functioning autism. Driven to investigate the death of his neighbour’s dog, Christopher begins to interact with people he would not normally talk to and incurs the wrath of his father. David Michaels embodies his character’s tumultuous emotions fully – struggling to raise Christopher alone, and making several poor decisions that have long-term ramifications while also standing up for his son against the school who resists entering him for a mathematics A Level.
Complex, too, is the relationship between Christopher and his mother (Emma Beattie), who has her own struggles with being unable to cope with caring for Christopher and seeing her son bond more effectively with her husband than with her. The gradual unfurling of the family’s relationships with each other is the true investigative journey that Christopher embarks upon. In opening out Christopher’s world onto a stage, adapter Simon Stephens and director Marianne Elliott encourage the audience to look out from Christopher’s eyes, to forget they are looking on from the outside.
Bunny Christie’s strong, mathematically inspired design and Paule Constable’s imaginative lighting, along with movement work by Frantic Assembly, combine to turn the stage into the world as imagined by the 15-year-old. But it is Scott Reid’s performance, posture and delivery that completely sells the character as one whose story becomes so inviting, enthralling and involving.
As the play came to a close, and after a promised mathematical encore (a rare time when Pythagoras’ theorem receives voluble applause), the audience spilled out into the cold February air, still discussing Christopher’s story, how it applies to friends and family, and how much it has made them appreciate people who have similar conditions to those shown on stage. It is rare indeed for a play to resonate beyond the final curtain: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time changes lives well beyond that, and may that continue for a long time to come.
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