Tuesday, 16 January 2018

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Jan 13, 2018 ****

Adapted by Simon Stephens from novel by Mark Haddon
By National Theatre of Great Britain 
Presented by Melbourne Theatre Company & Arts Centre Melbourne 
At Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne, until Feb 25, 2018 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 
Review also published in Herald Su  in print (Tues Jan 16, 2018) & Probably later online. KH
Joshua Jenkins (Christopher Boone), Amanda Posener, Matt Wilman, Oliver Boot. Photo by BrinkhoffMögenburg

Marianne Elliott’s imaginative, deft and seamless production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, with its complex theatrical technology, transforms Simon Stephens’ script into a startling, whimsical and intermittently alarming stage production.

Christopher Boone (Joshua Jenkins) can’t read people’s faces or empathise, screams when touched, doesn’t understand metaphor, takes instructions literally, can’t lie, is a mathematical prodigy, and lives by his own rules.

Although 15-year old Christopher’s behaviour has indicators of high-functioning autism, he is never labelled as such in The Curious Incident, Stephens’ multi-award-winning play based on Mark Haddon’s successful novel.

Christopher lives with his beleaguered but patient father, Ed (David Michaels), but, when Christopher is wrongly suspected of killing their neighbour’s dog, he embarks on his own Sherlock Holmes-style investigation, disobeying his father’s explicit instructions.

Elliott’s production is visually compelling and the cunning set design (Bunny Christie) marries with spectacular video (Finn Ross) and evocative lighting (Paule Constable) to transform a stark, black, geometric grid into a vivid, other world that allows us to enter Christopher’s mind and experience the chaos and cacophony of the contemporary world from his perspective.

The abstract staging and deluge of imagery sweep Christopher and the audience into locations as diverse as a bewildering rail network, a swirling sea of numbers, rowdy, visually over-stimulating London streets and even into the deep, blue cosmos.

Perhaps because of his abrasiveness and lack of empathy, it is difficult to engage emotionally with Christopher, but Jenkins gives a playful portrayal of this whip-smart, self-absorbed teenager who balances eccentricity with common sense.

Two characters do touch the heart: Ed, played sympathetically and poignantly by Michaels, and Siobhan, the narrator and Christopher’s teacher / mentor, played by Julie Hale who brings warmth and clarity to Christopher’s story.

One of the delights of the production is the versatile ensemble playing a profusion of roles, shifting character in an instant and transforming into inanimate objects with abstract movement (Scott Graham, Steven Hoggett), evocatively bringing to life Christopher’s environment and the confusing humans that populate it.

This major, visiting production by the National Theatre is a visual feast that takes the page to the stage by using cutting edge technology and the unembellished physicality of actors to illuminate Christopher Boone’s unexpected hero’s journey.

By Kate Herbert
Joshua Jenkins (Christopher Boone), Emma Beattie (Judy) and company. Photo  BrinkhoffMögenburg
Joshua Jenkins (Christopher Boone), Matt Wilman (Mr Thompson) and Crystal Condie (Punk Girl) . Photo by BrinkhoffMögenburg

Joshua Jenkins - Christopher (Some shows, Sam Newton)
David Michaels - Ed
Emma Beattie - Judy
Julie Hale - Siobhan
Oliver Boot
Crystal Condie
Bruce McGregor
Debra Michaels
Amanda Posener
Matt Wilman

Director- Marianne Elliott
Designer - Bunny Christie
Lighting Paule Constable
VideoFinn Ross
Movement - Scott Graham Steven Hoggett for Frantic Assembly
Original Fight director - Kate Waters

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