Review | The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time | His Majesty’s Theatre
til Aug 19 |
 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 

The Curious Incident of The Dog in The Night-Time opened a ten night season on Wednesday night at His Majesty’s Theatre. The play, Simon Stephens adaptation of Mark Hadden’s internationally bestselling novel, invites the audience inside the mind of fifteen year old Christopher Boone, a young man who cannot bear to be touched. We get to experience with him the challenges of being born with an exceptional intellect that both compels and baffles his family.

Author Hadden believed it was not possible to translate his narrative to either stage or screen. That Stephens, in collaboration with Britain’s National Theatre and director Marrianne Elliott, has so phenomenally succeeded was confirmed by the enthusiastic response of Wednesday nights Perth audience. We are fortunate to finally get to see a show which has already won 5 Tony awards and 7 Olivier awards. Whoopi Goldberg raved about it and I hope you get the chance to see why.

There is much to love about The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. The performances of the ensemble cast are impressive, and on opening night the performance by Kaffe Keating in the lead role of Christopher was a highlight.

Keating is one of two actors who take on the lead role, on opening night Joshua Jenkins – who has played the role around the world – was struck down by illness.     

This is physical theatre at its best. The actors use their bodies to create magical sequences in places while remaining firmly grounded with layered and nuanced characterizations.

Watching Christopher and his pet rat Toby float suspended in space didn’t require resorting to a mechanical flying carpet. His supportive cast members created the illusion with their bodies which were certainly less likely to malfunction, unlike another recent touring production.

That doesn’t mean that technology isn’t a major element of the performance. In fact the set, a simple black and white grid mirroring Christopher’s black and white thinking, becomes the portal through which we, the audience, experience for ourselves just how challenging and frightening the world can seem to people like Christopher. Indeed, the set, lighting and sound design are another character, as indispensable to the narrative as the actors on the stage.

However it is the depth of the narrative as it grapples with the concept of ‘otherness’ that constitutes the heart of this work. Ostensibly both the play and the novel are a mystery: what happened to the dog in the night-time? In reality the mystery is how the people who encounter Christopher find a way to connections with him honestly and truthfully. Even those closest to him manage to fail him. The moments where his mother and father confront the consequences of the secrets they thought would protect their child brought this reviewer to tears on several occasions. It isn’t difficult to see the parallels between Christopher’s experience and the queer experience.

While this isn’t a comedy, there is a lightness to the show. There are multiple ‘laugh out loud’ moments. The final line of the play is as much etched with poignancy as with hope. Ultimately it poses a question that remains yet to be answered and that is why it is a play well worth seeing. The best plays pose questions that demand an audience answer for themselves.

The Curious Incident of The Dog in The Night-Time plays at His Majesty’s Theatre, 8pm til August 19th. For tickets and more information head to ptt.wa.gov.au

P.S. Make sure you stay in your seat right till the very end of the show. You won’t want to miss anything…

Charlie Perth

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