BWW Review: Mirvish's THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME is a Surreal Visual Feast
Perception-twisting is the best way to describe the effect this play had on me. THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME, Simon Stephens' Olivier and Tony Award-winning play, based on the novel by Mark Haddon, has finally come to Canada. The National Theatre touring production of Marianne Elliott's ambitious vision is simple yet stunning, emotionally gripping and all-together eye-opening.
THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME follows protagonist, Christopher Boone (Joshua Jenkins). Christopher is fifteen years old. He does not like the colour yellow. He does like his pet rat, Toby. Math makes sense to Christopher. The world does not. After the sudden murder of his neighbour's dog, Wellington, Christopher decides to find out who is responsible. What begins as a murder mystery leads to more and more questions, testing all of Christopher's abilities, courage and strength.
Essentially confined to a graph paper-plastered cube, designed by Bunny Christie, director Marianne Elliott creates an extraordinary visual experience - the extent of which confuses the senses. The play features some of the the loudest music I have ever heard, the theatre practically pounding from the volume as scenes slam into each other, against Paule Constable's sharp, drastic lighting transitions. Christopher's intricate stories, which would seem rather impossible to stage, come to life with the strength of the entire ensemble in an acrobatic explosion of light, sound and movement - Finn Ross' magnificent projections slowly flourishing into their full potential.
Although never specifically mentioned in the play, Christopher Boone has autism. Autism spectrum disorder "refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviours, speech and nonverbal communication." (autismspeaks.ca) Some people on the autism spectrum are known to excel in visual skills and math, which becomes central to the play's aesthetic.
Christopher is good at math. Like, really good. The proof is in the curtain call. Christie's scenic design, a mathematical grid covering the stage, allows for the precise placement of set pieces, drawings and projections - it also allows us to really understand Christopher's obsession over details. His bluntness and unmatched honesty, forces everyone around him to communicate a little bit differently - making for some of the most haunting silences.
Joshua Jenkins deserves all of the applause for taking on such a ridiculously taxing role. Even when not doing anything physically exerting, the way Jenkins holds tension in his body speaks to the immense amount of work involved in presenting this story. Emma Beattie delivers an emotionally-charged performance as Christopher's mother, Judy. Her face covered in tears for practically the entire show, Beattie's pleading, rasping voice tugs at all of the heart strings. Christopher's parents are responsible for most of the show's drama. David Michaels, who plays Christopher's father, Ed, spends the show seething with rage, but begging for sympathy. The entire company are phenomenal actors.
THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME will show you that anything is possible, if you want it bad enough. It's in the design, it's in Christopher's adventure. If we all took the time to see things from his point of view - to focus on the facts and obsess over the details, I think we could all learn something about ourselves, and the world around us.
This is a show that stays with you. Don't miss it.
The National Theatre touring production of THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME, is presented by Mirvish Productions and runs through November 19th at the Princess of Wales Theatre, 300 King Street West, Toronto, ON
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit https://www.mirvish.com/shows/the-curious-incident-of-the-dog-in-the-night-time
(main photo credit: Joshua Jenkins (Christopher), Julie Hale (Siobhan) & Jâms Thomas (Understudy Ed). Curious Incident International Tour. Photo: Brinkhoff/Mögenburg)