26 August 2014

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at the Gielgud Theatre


I had not read the book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time but I was aware of it and the critical acclaim that it had received so the play had been on my "must see one day" list for some time. Its place there was reinforced by a tweet from TV and radio presenter Evan Davis who said that he had liked the book but thought that the play was even better.

There seemed to be no rush as the play was set for a long run in the West End then the ceiling in the theatre collapsed and it stopped for a while. Luckily it reappeared after not too long a break at the Gielgud Theatre just across the road from the ill-fated Apollo. Even luckier somebody at work organised a block booking with a company subsidy so all was set.

This was another Reading day so I looked for somewhere to grab a beer and possibly some food beforehand. The White Horse, a Samuel Smith's pub nearby, did the trick nicely.

Group booking seats are never the best but they are generally reasonable and mine was this time. I was in seat O4 which had a face value of £39.50, I think that I paid around £20.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was a simple story of a teenage boy caught up in his parents' marital problems. What made this simple story interesting was that it was told through the eyes of the boy and he was autistic.

That singularity of voice was carried forward in a clever production that retained the narrative style and complimented it with short acted scenes and with graphics displayed on the large grid on three sides of the stage. It was something like an illustrated book with some video clips thrown in. Indeed there was a book and one of the actors read to us from it.

To give just one example to show how it worked. In one short scene the boy had to get to a specific destination that he had not been to before. The map was shown on the back of the stage and we could all see that there was a quick and easy route but the boy told us that he knew that if he kept turning left until he got back to where he started and then turned right once before taking left turns again that we would cover all of the roads and ultimately find his destination. His progress was shown as a red dot on the digital map while he shuffled around the stage.

That sounds a little clumsy but it was not and the effect was very engaging. Not knowing the story may have helped but I was completely enthralled. It was all very human without being schmaltzy and clever without being fussy.

The Curious Incident ... was one of those plays where everything had clearly been thought through and testing in rehearsals so that all the words, movements and props gelled to make a rich and consistent whole. It was as wonderful as it was unique.

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