The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time,
Milton Keynes Theatre – Monday, 4th September to Saturday, 16th September.
Simply wow (and then some). What a phenomenal opening night at Milton Keynes Theatre for the acclaimed National Theatre production, Curious Incident.
With its dazzling projections, stunning choreography and the brilliance (not to mention sheer stamina) of its actors, it left me both mesmerised and with much food for thought.
Based on the best-selling Mark Haddon novel, Simon Stephens’ powerful adaptation takes us deep inside the mind of 15-year-old mathematical savant, Christopher Boone, who resolutely sets his mind on identifying the killer of a neighbour’s dog – forcing many of those around him to lose their minds in the process.
Mathematical symbolism looms large throughout. The entire play is acted within a hi-tech steel cube, with grids, patterns and messages projected in LED lights. As the action moves relentlessly between (3,7) and (8,8) and (6,4), it’s no coincidence that as a neurotypical (or NT) person, you feel like a round peg forced into a square hole (precisely what our society demands of people with neurological differences).
There’s something very moving about Christopher being bawled out for not holding eye contact, misinterpreting idioms and failing to grasp what is inferred. It really begs the question: do we truly understand the challenges we all unwittingly contribute to?
The overriding message of this play is the relentless assault from multisensory stimuli. It leaves you both fixated and mildly exhausted as you struggle to process the frenetically changing scenery. As the book’s author has been quoted as saying – this play is not really about Christopher and his autism but about examining our own consciences as we pay lip service to ‘understanding’.
Scott Reid plays the leading role astoundingly (right down to Christopher’s every movement) and is superbly supported by Lucianne McEvoy as his school mentor, Siobhan. Her soft, mellow tones provide some welcome respite from Christopher’s monologues and the emotional intensity of David Michaels and Emma Beattie as his battle-scarred parents, who incidentally are both fantastic too.
The choreography beautifully portrays Christopher’s sensory processing turmoil, as well as the lesser-known autistic deficits around proprioception – that is, problems with sensing the position and movement of the body in space. In short, autistic people often feel as if they’re not grounded. Through the very clever sequences, Christopher spends much of his time being twisted and twirled through the air by his fellow actors.
The train scenes, both mainline and tube, are among the visual and dramatic highlights. A forceful message is conveyed by commuters selfishly grabbing away baggage blocks on which Christopher is outstretched – leaving him literally clinging onto life’s rollercoaster by his stomach.
Eliza Collings, in the role of headteacher Mrs Gascoyne, also deserves credit for her comedy timing. I appreciated the laughs in a play of this intensity.
This really is an incredible piece of theatre. It’s a play within a play. It’s so many things that I definitely need to stop here and persuade you to go and see it. Running at Milton Keynes Theatre until 16th September, it’s your last chance to catch it in the UK before its Christopher-style world adventure. Booking is highly recommended.
Freelance writer & editor,