Voice’s Duncan Harley reviews The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at HM Theatre, Aberdeen.
When Wellington, the next door neighbour’s dog, is found murdered; fifteen year old Christopher Boone, a brilliant mathematician with some pretty complex personal issues, turns sleuth.
Emulating his hero Sherlock Holmes, he must solve the mystery of who killed Mrs Shears’ pet and absolve himself of complicity.
In the course of the ensuing who-dunnit Christopher discovers skeletons galore in the family cupboard.
After a long and often painful journey, including the realisation that Holmes was in fact a fictional detective, he solves the crime and is absolved.
Based on the book of the same name, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time highlights some of the issues faced by those who come into contact with those who differ markedly from the norm and of course many of the issues faced by those who are by nature quite different. The book’s author Mark Haddon comments that “Curious is not really about Christopher at all, it’s about us.” He may have a point.
Christopher, played by Joshua Jenkins, exhibits what can only be described as mind-blowingly challenging behavioural traits. He cannot bear to be touched, he becomes unbearably swamped by external stimuli, he cannot use a stranger’s toilet, he cannot tell a lie and takes everything completely literally – the list goes on and inevitably ticks all of the diagnostic boxes.
The play presents as a reading of Christopher’s own written thoughts, read aloud in segments mainly by his mentor and school teacher Siobhan, played beautifully by Geraldine Alexander. The unfolding story takes place within a high-tech multi-media set representing a gateway into Christopher’s consciousness. The drama literally takes place in Christopher’s head.
At times funny, often terrifyingly intense and always challenging, Curious is a superb production. Joshua Jenkins’ performance is both electrifying in its intensity and engaging in its complexity. There are lighter moments. Animal lovers will drool over the cute Andrex Puppy. They may even take a fancy to Toby, Christopher’s pet rat.
Stuart Laing and Gina Isaac excel as Christopher’s long suffering and often desperate parents, kindly neighbours peek into his life and at one point a cheerily upbeat railway policeman takes time out to help him on his quest but it has to be said that this is essentially a stage show all about Christopher.
The technical aspects of the production are worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster and have to be experienced to be believed. Aboyne born video designer Finn Ross has worked on everything from Festival Fringe through to Broadway and his expertise in combining live and pre-recorded imagery takes live performance into exciting new realms. Lighting, sound and set design are likewise superb.
Ultimately this play examines the nature of abnormality and the challenge of defining limitations. Having solved the gruesome dog murder and dismissed lingering doubts regarding his mathematical ability Christopher asks Siobhan “Does this mean I can do anything?” She does not reply.
Only those members of the audience who elect to remain in theatre following the final curtain call are likely to discover the answer.
Adapted for stage by Simon Stephens and directed by Marianne Elliott – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time plays at HM Theatre Aberdeen until Saturday 5th September.
Tickets from Aberdeen Performing Arts Tel: 01224- 641122
Words © Duncan Harley, Images © Brinkhoff Moginburg