Having previously studied The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, as an example of successful ensemble work, I had high hopes for this production. It follows the tale of Christopher Boone, a 15-year-old with Asperger’s Syndrome who is accused of murdering his neighbour’s dog with a garden fork. Setting out on an investigation to prove his innocence and to find the culprit, Christopher stumbles across some secrets of his own life and of his mother’s supposed death years before.
Now in its fifth year, it seems the National Theatre has once again made itself a legacy for being the pinnacle of devised storytelling, confirmed by the surprisingly large number of school trips in the audience. Unsurprisingly slick and satisfying, the play moved along at a remarkable pace – without fault. It struck me that countless things could go wrong – as part of the set there were several white identical stage blocks which were used alongside the lighting to create scene changes. As the performance progressed though it became clear that each of these blocks were not identical, and opened up in different ways to reveal different props. One block, for example, had a handle inside it which later became a suitcase. It dawned on me that should any one of these blocks be misplaced by any of the ten actors in the high-energy transition scenes, the play would face some awkward blunders. This did not happen and I could only sit in awe at the skill and knowledge of the entire company. It began to dawn on me that the only appropriate reaction to this play was “wow” rather than “how”.
As I’m sure those who have seen it would agree, no review of this piece would be complete without special mention of Bunny Christie’s jaw-dropping design. The stage consists of a large clean and futuristic black cube, which in turn is formed from hundreds of light-emitting pixelated squares. Rarely have I seen a set that is so perfect for what is required – the sleek technology aspect of it really helped to portray the logical mind-set of protagonist Christopher Boone, and it aided the piece seamlessly. Every inch of the set was used, although the superiority of the set sometimes overpowered the actors; occasionally the scene transition was more exciting than the dialogue it preceded.
The speed of the technology also sometimes made the scenes themselves rushed, in that it felt as though the actors sometimes tried to keep up to avoid a drop in energy. This resulted in some emotions being lost and the cast could’ve afforded to be more indulgent on a few occasions with its performance. My main criticism is the mismatched use of stylised, physical work alongside more naturalistic methods. The play has earned its title through its physical ensemble and so when the latter came into effect it shattered any sense of continuity, making it harder to follow the plot. A particular scene comes to mind – that when Christopher Boone and his father stand silently together to watch the rain fall. Having come straight after a loud, bright and busy transition it took me a while to realise that this was intended; I had been convinced that someone had forgotten their line.
All in all, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was an extremely polished performance, and I would urge you (whether interested in theatre or not) to go and see it. The unique nature of the piece means that it can be appreciated by everyone, and if nothing else it is a fascinating insight into just what can be achieved on stage. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time runs at the Festival Theatre, Edinburgh until Saturday 25th February 2017
Young Perspective Guest Writer: Matthew Sedman