This dazzling hi-tech drama from the National Theatre is a story of a family struggling to cope
Three theatres, three casts, one major disaster and seven Olivier Awards on, the National Theatre’s adaptation of Mark Haddon’s novel about Christopher Boone, the teenage ‘mathematician with some behavioural difficulties’ remains a thing of unbridled wonder.
The occasion for this re-review is the end of the enforced layoff inflicted upon ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’. The show figuratively blew the roof off when it transferred from the NT to the Apollo Theatre, but unfortunately the ageing ceiling responded by literally collapsing, necessitating a change of venue and months off. Hopefully, that episode will provide a footnote.
The most important thing is that Simon Stephens’s adaptation remains high tech and high quality. The first Christopher, Luke Treadaway, will always cast a huge shadow, and incumbent Graham Butler can’t match his coiled spring energy and manic otherness. But if Butler offers a gentler, more ‘normal’ hero, his superficial lack of strangeness means that it’s all the more heartbreaking when his nameless condition – presumably Asperger’s – leaves him suddenly, unexpectedly broken, unable to cope with something as simple as a human touch.
Ultimately ‘Curious Incident’ is a tragedy about a family torn apart by the pressures of looking after their son. Nicolas Tennant and Emily Joyce are excellent as Christopher’s bumblingly selfless dad Ed and agonised mum Judy, driven to put her own wellbeing before that of the child who will never love her in the way she loves him.
The genius of Marianne Elliott’s production is that the tragedy is bound up in so much charm, whimsy, good humour and virtuoso staging that you only occasionally feel blue as Christopher – convinced his dad is dangerous – embarks on an ill-advised odyssey to London to find his mum.
Bunny Christie’s design was neat at the intimate Cottesloe, but blown up for a big stage it’s awe-inspiring, her huge mathematical grid set flaring with life at every turn: maps, cities, trains, constellations – the wondrous strange workings of Christopher’s mind, pumped into something exhilarating by Adrian Sutton’s electronic score.
Perhaps it was weight of expectations, but at the NT I felt the show was a brilliant but conventional adaptation of Haddon’s unconventional bestseller, reliant on Treadaway for greatness. But on a bigger stage, its virtuoso techiness is given full reign – this is a show that’s as extraordinary as its hero.
This review is from July 2014. 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time' returns to the West End at the Piccadilly Theatre in a limited run from November 2018, with a new cast.
How to get cheap tickets: a limited number of day seats for each night’s performance will go on sale at the box office every morning at 10am, priced £15 each. In person only. Arrive before the box office opens for your best chance of securing seats.
Average User Rating
4.5 / 5
- 5 star:74
- 4 star:32
- 3 star:3
- 2 star:0
- 1 star:4
Sorry to be a party pooper, but our party of four thought this was dull. A 'dripping tap' play; a bit pretentious, bare and full of boring silences. Worthy of course, but too clever for its own good. It wasn't even a story. At interval, I hoped it was going to come to some clever, stunning climax, as it had been critically acclaimed, but it went absolutely nowhere. I couldn't help thinking Emperor's New Clothes!
I saw this show late last year and absolutely loved it. I was pulled in from the very start. This is a great watch and tells the story very well.
Not a huge fan of the book. For some reason found it really hard to connect & empathise with Christopher Boone as a character on the page. However although this play is faithful to the original book it is such a completely different experience & I loved it! The cast were fabulous, the sets were inventive & it was a truly modern, innovative & entertaining piece of theatre. It made me both laugh & cry. I found myself really rooting for our atypical hero. Kudos to the National Theatre, another fantastic contribution to our vibrant West End.
Wonderful experience! Fantastic acting, brilliant use of the modern stage, a realistic yet inspiring plot and unpredictable twists. This play was very enjoyable to watch.
I would recommend it to all my friends. I love all about it - book, interpretation, acting, light, choreography.
A very good production. An emotional journey of how being different affects your outlook on life and of those around you. Laughter and sadness throughout, though more poignant in its sadness. Would recommend this play to all, young and old. I left the theatre numb, almost speechless. This young man's story made me realise that we're not all equipped the same in dealing with life, but understanding the differences will make you a better human.
A different, fun, emotional and wonderful show. It was refreshing to go and see something so contemporary and unique. The performances were brilliant, especially the actor who plays Christopher, who shows a great insight into the mind of someone who has autism. The stage effects are incredible, with the whole stage light up in squares, an escalator and various other special effects. The dog that features later on is adorable too!
One thing I would say is that the experience was probably better for me as I had read the book. If you didn't know anything about the story or play it might seem slightly confusing!
Funny, emotional, clever, touching. Everything a thinking theatre-going person could wish for in a night out. I had a restricted view seat and, although I could see all the actors for 95% of the time, I'm sure missed out on some of the famous stage effects. I would recommend paying a bit extra to get the full experience.
A play we've been looking forward to for a long time and we weren't disappointed. Starting off with an innovative set and cast set-up, we were engrossed from the beginning. An excellent cast, with some well known faces, was topped by an excellent performance by the actor playing Christopher. It swayed from very funny moments to quite heart-wrenching moments without overdoing the slush. I particularly enjoyed the way the supporting cast were used almost as props at times with some unique physical moves. I'd definitely recommend this to anyone from teens, of whom there were plenty in the audience, upwards.
Such a great play! Really inventive set design. Gives a great insight in living with / knowing someone on the autistic spectrum without ever putting a name to it or being in your face about it. Highly recommend it!
Great production! As a big fan of the book I wasn't too sure what to expect, but it definiely does it justice. The set design is amazing, with a really inventive use of lights and sound in what at first glance seems like quite a basic surrounding. Just the right amount of humor with fantastic acting.
What a stunning production. I read the book a few years ago and it's a story that gets under your skin, so I was really excited to see this.
We all deal with family break ups in different ways but what of the folk that process things differently from the mainstream. This is a phenomenal depiction of just that and follows the book superbly.
It's eerie, it's noisy it's goosebumps and gobsmacks. It's a stunning piece of physical theatre with tightly knitted choreography. The performances were solid, well cast and shockingly believable.
The lighting and set alone deserves its own dressing room, staggeringly good.
I was enthralled from the opening scene, and had to lubricate with Chablis to prepare for the second half. See it.
Having enjoyed the book I was keen to see the stage production which was excellent and did not disappoint. The set was very innovative and the cast excellent.
This was a very entertaining evening and I had not read the book beforehand. The story is a simple one but the cast hold your attention throughout as the action unfolds. The main point of the play is about getting into the mind of the autistic boy Christopher with regard to how he deals with the various issues and challenges arising. It is an excellent example of Physical Theatre - all the action taking place in one set but with many surprising physical and electronic features together with movable props. The cast was mostly excellent particularly the leading man. However it was let down from time to time by inaudibility especially on the part of Christopher's mother. (Don't Drama Schools teach voice projection any more? Do Directors no longer sit at various parts of the theatre to test projection in rehearsals?) Otherwise thoroughly recommended.
One of the most original, funny and interesting plays currently gracing the West End. The direction, staging and acting were all superb.
I thought the whole atmosphere of the show was very good indeed. They portrayed the troubles and sensitivity of the young boy's life wonderfully well. The show was in itself also very entertaining and well paced, considering the fact that it's hardly an action thriller...Anyway, I would suggest seeing this whilst you still can, although be warned that some of the seats in the Gods do not give a fantastic view.
An interesting, thought provoking and highly gripping production, this had me on the edge of my seat throughout the performance. The set and the acting offers a real window into the lives of people who suffer from such isolating illnesses without making you feel sorry for the characters. I particularly enjoyed the modernized set which provided the backdrop to add humour to a delicate situation. I must take my hat off to the performers in this, especially the main character, and must tell you to stay at the end, don't leave too quickly!
A brilliant, buzzy, vibrant production that flies a long at a pace. You don't even realise how quickly the evening has gone when you leave the theatre on such a high. Superbly acted funny, touching. You get a real insight into what it might feel like to suffer from aspergers. My only criticism would be the theatre is usually full of school kids screeching, talking, whispering, fiddling and generally being annoying. Oh well they have to go some way to stop you from loving this production.
Great play. The history is brilliant, the scenario excellent and the actors outstanding. An emotional and funny story. The theatre is very good and the price is worth it. I recommend the Dress Circle with a very good view in any row or location.
Wow! Went to the Gielgud Theatre yesterday with my 17 year old son and 13 year old daughter. What an incredible show! The acting, direction and set were all superb. It was powerful, moving, funny, sad and very clever and we were all enthralled. I had read the book but my children hadn't and they loved it as much as I did. A must see!