By: May. 10, 2017
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The National Theatre's The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time enables audiences to experience the world from the unique viewpoint of a teenage boy with autism.

Based on Mark Haddon's award-winning novel, the story follows 15-year-old Christopher as he strives to solve the murder of his neighbour's beloved pet dog whilst facing the real-world challenges that his condition presents. Marianne Elliott's production has been a huge success since its National Theatre premiere in 2012 and transfer to the West End in 2013, and is currently on its second tour of the UK and Ireland.

Simon Stephens' adaptation uses written anecdotes, such as those from Christopher's detective book and letters written by his mother, as a large part of the play's narrative. As such, the audience gains a real insight into both Christopher and his mother's thought processes throughout the play. This leads to meaningful but also humorous moments, particularly Christopher's internal pondering of the use of metaphors, and how the word 'metaphor' is in itself a metaphor. As well as providing entertainment, this creative narrative is essential in helping to convey Christopher's distinctive way of processing the world around him.

Christopher himself was excellently portrayed by Scott Reid, who managed to strike a perfect balance of communicating both his experience of feeling overwhelmed and his quiet courage. His relationship with David Michaels as Mr Boone was also notable, with the two conveying the friction of their complex relationship through body language alone.

Curious Incident is renowned for its outstanding set design and lighting, which this touring production maintains. Bunny Christie and Finn Ross's creative use of the projected chalkboard allows Christopher's drawings and diagrams throughout the story to be clearly visible to the entire audience, again inviting them to follow the way his mind works.

Paule Constable's frequent and unexpected uses of strobe lighting is particularly effective in generating Christopher's catastrophic and overwhelming sensory overload. Although this is an integral part of the experience, discretion is advised for those with noise and light sensitivity.

Movement directors Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett should be commended for their excellent work, particularly for the ensemble, who are an integral part of the performance. The use of intricate physical theatre, whereby the ensemble seamlessly transform themselves into household objects, clearly portrays Christopher's breaking the world around him down into component parts. Later, the speedy actions of all those on stage creating the illusion of old Mrs Alexander moving so slowly that it's almost beyond Christopher's comprehension is humorously realised.

Awareness of autism is continually improving, but accurately portraying the experiences of individual sufferers can be more difficult. This is why the power of theatre should never be underestimated. Curious Incident powerfully takes the audience out of its typical mindset and allows them to see the world through a completely different set of eyes, in order to better appreciate the endless challenges that those on the spectrum face every single day.

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time at Sheffield Lyceum Theatre until 20th May

Photo credit: Brinkhoff Mögenburg


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