West End Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

When I was in middle school or high school, I read a book called, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” by Mark Haddon. I loved it. It was quirky and interesting, and better yet, set in my beloved England. Years passed, and it was made into a play. Knowing how much I loved the book, I was excited to see how they created a stage version it. My boyfriend and I got £15 day-of tickets for the front row of the theatre, and what happened next was pure amazement.
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With Christopher, the main character to move the story along, the rest of the cast acted as an ensemble, playing multiple parts to aid in his story. If you’re not familiar with the plot, I suggest you read it here, but the basic story is that Christopher is an autistic 15-year-old, who discovers his neighbor’s dog to be dead and then goes on a quest to find out who did it. The stage was set up like a black cube, with blocks lining the sides for the other actors to sit on and use as props. The use of theatre tech in this show was unbelievable and what sets it apart from a community theatre production.

Photo by Alastair Muir.

The book is very meta at times, with Christopher talking about how what you are reading is him writing a book about his investigations. The play takes on a similar turn, where Siobhan, his teacher is reading his book and suggests it be made into a play, with quite cheek towards the audience in this regards. You could say it almost got too meta at times, but it never pulled me out of the magic of theatre, so I wasn’t bothered. Along with the amazing set and design, which I don’t want to ruin by revealing any secrets, the use of actors as props was astounding. Through the vivid imagination of Christopher’s inner-mind, we get to see what he’s seeing, which is hard for him to express, but we can go along with him and his big thoughts as he tries to figure out what is happening in his world.

© Brinkhoff/Moegenburg

I’m a little sad to say though that it really was the flash and intensity of the set and the carefully choreographed scenes of madness that really intrigued me. The acting was good, but nothing spectacular. I felt like I wanted a bit more from almost all of the performers, but was thankfully compensated by the beauty of the overall design to make up for that factor. I think it’s just when you go to a show on the West End, you assume they’ve chosen the best actors for the job, but performing night after night can definitely add to a dampened performance. But for me, coming from a theatre background, I’m not just looking for pop and flash in my theatre outings. I also want to see some great acting, especially when it’s a straight-play and not a musical. Musicals can lean on the music and flash to make up for bad acting, but a play has to push more.

With that being said, I still recommend this show to anyone who is a fan of the book. It’s a stunning, visual portrayal of the novel and will make you want to read it again the moment you leave the theatre.

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