The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, National Theatre and Trafalgar Productions, The Birmingham Hippodrome, 29 March 2022, 3*** . David Gray & Paul Gray

A fifteen-year-old boy, Christopher, has led a protected life.  He does not like to be touched, is uneasy with strangers and does not understand people.  He also cannot lie. He finds the body of his neighbour’s dog, Wellington, brutally killed.  The discovery sets in motion a train of revelations which dislodge him from his sheltered existence and drive him out on a journey of discovery.

Much of the charm, humour and truth of The Curious Incident lies in the collision between protagonist, Christopher’s searingly honest and unfiltered perception of his world, and the socially conditioned perceptions of those around him.   Connor Curren, as Christopher, invests the role with the awkward physicality of someone not at home in society.  He also manages the text with clarity and wit and inhabits his character’s many moments of emotional difficulty with viscerally compelling conviction.

The action takes place in a bare, electronically augmented, interactive cuboid set.  The drama is fluid, switching seamlessly between times and locations.  The ensemble creates the physical world around Christopher through mime.  The difficulty of this type of mime is that all the actors involved must share a clear vision of the physical attribute of the object they are representing or interacting with.  This level of unanimity is not always evident, particularly during the first act, with the result that the mimed action appears at times a bit chaotic and frenetic.

However, the physical theatre comes into its own at the start of Act 2, where Christopher runs away from home and journeys to London. The acting ensemble is tighter here, and combines with deafening sound effects, stunning lighting, and visual projection to bring the audience into the overwhelming sensory trauma and overload experienced by Christopher during this journey.

The middle section of the first act, a series of brief vignettes depicting the deteriorating domestic situation between Christopher, his mother, and her partner, sprawls a little and could perhaps benefit from taking a beat between each scene to create more of a sense of form and structure.

The play regains is stride once Christopher returns home and starts to come to terms with how his life has changed.  Here we realise that the story is not just about Christopher and his journey.  Tom Peters and Kate Kordel give thoughtful performances as, respectively, his father and mother.  Rebecca Root shines as teacher, Siobhan.  And it is these characters and their narratives of transformation that greatly add to the significant emotional punch delivered at the play’s conclusion.

Cast

Christopher Boone – Connor Curren

Siobhan – Rebecca Root

Ed – Tom Peters

Judy – Kate Kordel

Other Characters and Ensemble – Joanne Henry, Hannah Sinclair Robinson, Ashley Gerlach, David Monteith, Kofi De-Graft-Jordan, Siu-see Hung, Orea & Biscoff

Creatives

Director – Marianne Elliott

Designer – Bunny Christie

Lighting Designer – Paule Constable

Movement Directors – Scott Graham & Steven Hoggett

Music – Adrian Sutton

Sound Designer – Ian Dickenson

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