If you’ve never heard of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, you’d probably dismiss it as a mystery novel with a strange title.
But apart from the initial incident – the mysterious murder of a neighbour’s dog– the real intrigue of the story centres on the fascinating main character Christopher Boone and his unique interpretation of the world.
Christopher, who has Asperger syndrome, is a gifted mathematician who sees reality in terms of numbers; right or wrong, true or false, black and white– there’s no grey area.
It’s not only the delivery of this distinctive character, phenomenally acted by Joshua Jenkins, which makes the stage adaptation so impressive, but the production’s overall aesthetic.
The innovative mise-en-scene is a performance in its own right and takes the audience on a journey into the inner workings of Christopher’s mind.
Characters move across the stage in straight lines and make abrupt turns, all of which is captured inside a cube. The walls are aptly made up of graph paper labelled time and space and light up to track the character’s logical thought processes.
In the second act, Christopher runs away to London to be reunited with his mother after discovering that his father is the culprit of the crime; if his father murdered the dog, the only rational conclusion is that he will murder him too.
Whilst, in a lot of theatre, the pace tends to slow at the start of the second act, the energy of this production seemed to build and build.
Coupled with manic ensemble movement, directed by Frantic Assembly, the lights, sounds and general chaos of this second section overwhelms the senses and gives the audience an insight into Christopher’s loss of control as he tries to navigate the London underground.
At several points in the piece, we witness his meltdowns which manifest either in violence towards others or in complete distress. Importantly, we also witness the journey of Christopher’s parents and their struggle with both their child’s behavioural problems and their own human weaknesses.
Yet this story is anything but tragic, and the balance between portraying both the brilliance and fragility of such a complex character is consistently on point; we are compelled to both laugh and cry for him.
Indeed, the story ends in triumph as Christopher passes his Maths A Level with flying colours and we are left to marvel at the possibilities of his beautiful mind: “Can I do anything?”
Credit must be given to Geraldine Alexander who plays Christopher’s teacher, Siobhan. In her role as omniscient narrator, she represents the voice of reason for her student. A calming presence, Siobhan is an understated but central character whose part highlights the important role that teachers play in the lives of children with special educational needs.
As the curtain fell on the performance and the audience rose to their feet, Christopher returned from the wings for one last time. Why? To tell the audience how he worked out his A Level maths question, of course.
The critically acclaimed and much loved book has been transformed from page to stage with great success. Making its way around the country, the National Theatre production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time will be lighting up the Liverpool Empire until Saturday 25 July. Don’t miss it.