It seemed inevitable that one day I would find myself sitting inside Gielgud Theatre watching a play that I often wondered what in earth it was all about. I had done many walks down Shaftesbury Avenue on my way to Forbidden Planet to stock up my manga and/or graphic novel collection and to purchase things I probably didn’t need but really wanted from the store.
Every trip required me to walk past a gigantic sign that always entrigued me. This enigmatic sign read ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.’
After many years walking past this sign and discovering that it’s a “pretty darn good show”from a few friends that had seen it, it was finally time to feed my curiosity. Yes, that’s right, it was time to change into my smart casual clothing that consisted of a red and black checked shirt and skinny black jeans. It was theatre time.
Based on a novel by Mark Haddon, The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night-Time is about 15-year-old Christopher and his desire to document his investigation on who killed his neighbour’s dog. While it’s never stated in the play, Christopher shows traits of Asperger syndrome, high functioning autism or possibly savant syndrome. Christopher describes himself as “a mathematician with some behavioural difficulties.”
Though I haven’t read the book, I can imagine Haddon being delighted with the stage adaptation. The show was packed with humour, originality and emotion, taking full advantage of the stage and exploiting several techniques that utilised every inch of it.
The structure was set up from the very opening, as Christopher’s warm-hearted teacher at his special needs school begins to read aloud from his book he has written about his investigation. She states that he decided to turn his book into a play, so there are a few references from the characters that they’re in a play that provide plenty of laughter.
The show oozes originality and is cleverly put together as the audience live inside the mind of this young gifted teen. With some of his actions seen as extreme and at times a criminal offence, his reasoning’s and understanding’s help the audience sympathise with him and we can’t help but support Christopher in his quest from the start.
What put the show into Matt’s League of Greats (this may not be a thing) was the lead. Played by Joseph Ayre, his performance is nothing short of breathtaking. From the moments Chris tries to deal with bad news by dropping to his knees with his face on the ground and begins moaning, to displaying his brilliant mind in mathematics, Ayre captures the audience’s heart and never lets go from start to end. Christopher is a character who can’t bear to be touched, only allowing the most slightest of contact with him to his parents which involves him raising a hand as his mother or father slowly approaches to press theirs against his. Ayre also portrays perfectly a character who hosts several other quirks, enthusiasm and dislikes.
The play is staged in a versatile black box that uses projections and serves as a giant chalk board to create different locations and help explain the mind of Christopher. The black box cleverly explains the mathematical formulae in which Christopher uses to navigate his way through the busy streets of London and to explain his experience on the underground. The scene where he jumps down onto the underground tracks to save his pet rat Toby will keep you on the end of your seat.
The rest of the cast prove to hold a very high talent, most notably coming from Nicolas Tennant and Sarah Stanley playing Christopher’s parents. The anguished and emotional roller-coaster Tennant portrays had me in awe and the gentle and friendly performance Jo Castleton gives as the teacher show a great bond teacher and student can have in a specialised school. The show is definitely a must see for all Londoners and anyone visiting.