Saturday, 1 September 2012
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time at The Cottesloe
Whoops, I seem to be waxing lyrical about nearly everything, but I’ve been lucky enough to see some wonderful productions just lately, most of them staged at The National. The Cottesloe’s latest offering keeps up the momentum. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Mark Haddon’s wonderful book, has been lovingly and cleverly adapted for the stage by Simon Stephens.
I, like countless others, so enjoyed reading the book and was “curious” to see how it would morph into a play. Thanks to Bunny Christie’s very clever design, Marianne Elliott’s directorial flair and Luke Treadaway’s magnificent portrayal of Christopher Boone, a 15-year-old with behavioural problems (Mark Haddon regrets the phrase ‘Asperger Syndrome’ in his novel) we are treated to a superb theatrical experience.
Walking into the Cottesloe space each time is an experience in itself, as one never knows how it will be configured. With Curious Incident the action takes place in a sunken, lit square, covered with a grid-like pattern resembling graph paper and bordered by low boxes on which the actors sit when not part of the action. The one actor who never takes advantage of this is Luke Treadaway, who is the action ….. always. He is a revelation, drawing the audience completely into his world and making us believe wholeheartedly that he is Christopher Boone. His total concentration, whether in assembling his train set or resolutely telling the truth no matter what, his oh so real epileptic fit and tangible horror at not wanting to be touched moved me as much as I’ve ever been moved in the theatre.
The production stays faithful to the book and captures the insight and humanity of the original by using various theatrical techniques. Siobhan (the always watchable Niamh Cusack), a sympathetic teacher at Christopher’s special school, reads aloud parts of the story Christopher has written, starting from his Holmes-like investigation into who killed Wellington, a neighbour’s dog and ending with his travelling to London to find his mother. Christopher’s obsession with mathematics and love of the night sky, is brilliantly reflected, not only in the floor’s grid patterns, but also in Paul Constable’s wonderful lighting. And his utter confusion when confronted with the hustle and bustle of London life is beautifully conveyed by the Movement Directors, Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett for Frantic Assembly. Such is the inventiveness and skill of all concerned that, although the set consists solely of white boxes – oh yes, and a train set - the audience has no problem seeing, amongst other things, the neighbourhood gardens, Christopher hiding on top of a pile of luggage on a train and standing on the edge of a tube platform (the floor cleverly opens up to suggest the electric tube rails). If the applause is anything to go by, everyone watching was as totally transfixed as myself.
The entire cast are exemplary but I especially enjoyed Paul Ritter’s portrayal of Ed, Christopher’s quick tempered, but ultimately loving father and Nicola Walker as his flawed mother, Judy. Also, unlike various critics, I wasn’t put off by the appearance of the aahhh factor hidden in a cardboard box. I was captivated way before the furry, four-legged cast member made its appearance and needed no manipulation to praise this production to the hilt. It is wonderful. Oh yes and apparently I'm special as my name equals a prime number; I shall treasure my prize!!