Tuesday 17 January 2017

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time at Bord Gais Energy Theatre review: A powerful and moving drama in need of a better setting

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Bord Gais Energy Theatre

Sophie Gorman

Published 08/10/2015 | 02:30

Hollywood actor Colin Farrell (centre) with his brother Eamonn and sister Claudine at the
opening night of 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time' Photo: Brian McEvoy
Hollywood actor Colin Farrell (centre) with his brother Eamonn and sister Claudine at the opening night of 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time' Photo: Brian McEvoy

On a bare stage, a dog lies dead with a pitchfork sticking out of him. A 15-year-old boy is standing beside the carcass when his neighbour, the dog's owner, arrives and starts screaming at him.

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But the boy, Christopher Boone, didn't kill the dog and now he's going to find out who did.

Christopher's story is being narrated by Siobhán, a cheery teacher who has formed a close bond with Christopher at his special needs school and has encouraged him to write a book about his adventures.

Christopher's real gift is mathematics, not English literature, so this narrative is credibly simplistic, direct and unemotional. She reads it almost as if it is a nursery story, when really this is an at times affecting and poignant story of a young boy facing up to how his parents' splitting up almost splits him up and coping with his Asperger's at the same time.

Adapted by Simon Stephens, this National Theatre of Great Britain touring production does capture the spirit of Mark Haddon's novel in a creative way. Directed by Marianne Elliott, the staging relies hugely on the human performances, the set pared back to a black box with innovative visual graphics.

At times, we are bombarded with them, experiencing a kind of sensory overload that is all too familiar to Christopher.

However, there is something lost in this blockbuster production and you can't help wishing it was presented in a smaller intimate space.

Wearing microphones, much of this strong ensemble cast present very heightened performances that we can admire but we can't fully engage with, because everyone is shouting too loudly.

Stuart Laing is an exception, with his naturalistic depiction of Christopher's father Ed creating real moments of tenderness between father and son.

But this is Christopher's story and Joshua Jenkins carries it with a most empathetic and physical performance. And this production, though it is not as emotionally connected as it might be, does win you over.

You would have to be made of stone not to feel something when Christopher reaches out his hand to put it palm to palm with his estranged mother, the boy who explodes whenever he is physically touched giving this signal of love.

(It should be mentioned that though this is an adaptation of a young people's novel, it is certainly not for the very young. The language is surprisingly earthy right from the beginning, the themes strong and there is much use of strobe lighting.)

Irish Independent

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