AHEAD of the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time arriving on Wearside, Katy Wheeler went to review the show in its West End home.
I wasn’t sure what I would make of Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
I hadn’t read the bestselling book. I hadn’t researched the award-winning play beforehand. I found the title befuddling.
But it was actually quite refreshing, for once, to take my seat in the theatre not knowing what to expect.
At the core of this quirky piece of theatre is Christopher.
An unlikely hero, he’s an insular soul who struggles to interpret everyday life and can’t bear to be touched. But, once I got to grips
with the gist of the play, he soon had me enthralled.
The eponymous dog of the piece is Wellington. Christopher finds said dead dog speared with a garden fork just after midnight and, with the finger of suspicion pointing at him, sets out on a mission to solve the mystery of the canine corpse.
Prior to turning teen Poirot, he hadn’t ventured alone beyond the end of his road, but his detective work takes him on an eye-opening
journey from riding the rails of adventure to interpreting his family’s relationships.
The case becomes curiouser and curiouser and the audience are given an insight into the complexities of Christopher’s mind through the nifty use of graphics, projections and lighting.
The action takes place in a large, clinical cube lined with grids which display how baffling the world is to Christopher, who is recognisably on the autism spectrum.
From brilliant maths equations in which he revels, to the dazzling constellations of the universe and the hustle and bustle of London and its pulsating neon signs and lights which assault his senses, all whizz past you in a captivating spectacle.
The scenes in the Capital, in which our protagonist sets out on a perilous journey to find his mother, are particularly powerful and the sensory overload of fast-paced effects had me holding my breath in anticipation.
The director at the helm of the play, Marianne Elliott, previously co-directed the excellent War Horse and her slick approach to story-telling is evident here.
Whereas War Horse brought a whole new dimension to puppetry, this National Theatre stablemate brings futuristic Minority Report-esque effects to the stage.
But it’s no good being high-tech, if the acting isn’t high-quality. Abram Rooney is excellent as the matter-of-fact main man who feels more at home with maths than emotion.
Yet, despite his aversion to human touch, you can’t help but warm to his idiosyncrasies. Amidst the tragedy of his parents’ broken marriage and his personal struggles as an outsider, there’s a real sense of humour and soul in this play which abounds with unconventional coming-of-age charm.
•The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is at Sunderland Empire from August 10-15. Tickets are available in person at the Box Office from £10, or from £11.90 via the Ticket Centre on 0844 871 3022 or online at www.atgtickets.com/Sunderland.