Mayflower Theatre, Southampton – 27 March. Reviewed by Sharon MacDonald-Armitage
The National Theatre’s production of Marianne Elliott’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time makes a return visit to Southampton’s Mayflower after a successful visit nearly two years ago. Apart from a change of cast little has altered in the intervening months as this is still an outstanding piece of theatre. Having won seven Olivier Awards when it opened at the National Theatre and five Tony Awards it is easy to see the enduring appeal of this play. Anyone who has read Mark Haddon’s novel will not be disappointed with Simon Stephen’s adaptation which loses nothing in moving from page to stage.
The play tells the story of Christopher Boone a 15 year old Asperger’s sufferer who is a genius with numbers and mathematical equations. Demonstrating many of the usual problems associated with the condition: fear of being touched, taking everything literally, disturbed by loud noises, coupled with his inability to tell a lie we see how he takes on the difficult and complicated process of working out who killed Mrs Shears dog Wellington.
Scott Reid absolutely shines as Christopher and embodies the role superbly. His detective work takes him on a journey of self-discovery which at times makes it difficult to watch. Supported by a wonderful cast including David Michaels as Christopher’s father, Lucianne McEvoy as Siobhan, Christopher’s care worker and Emma Beattie as his mother, there is a wonderful connection between them all.
The audience is made to feel uncomfortable from the very start with flashing strobe lighting and loud squealing music beneath a veneer of white noise; a clever attempt to elicit empathy from the audience to Christopher’s condition.
It is easy to see how the original production won numerous Olivier Awards including set design and lighting. Bunny Christie’s set is ingenious, with a graph paper lined black box concealing doors, drawers and cupboards behind which are a plethora of props that the actors take things from in a quick and often frenetic way. Paul Constable gives us sensory overload with his clever lighting and Finn Ross shows an expertise with video design that is as important to the production as the actors and play itself. There is a clear sense of awe from the audience when the visual ‘tricks’ unfold.
There is a particular sense of humour that underlines the serious message conveyed by the play and this was acknowledged by the audience, many of whom were teenage children who appeared to be on school trips. There is much laughter when Christopher ironically states he does not want his story to be turned into a play because he doesn’t like plays!
Reid is close to exhaustion by the end of this play, it is a physical piece that requires complete trust in his fellow cast members and it must be a relief when the show ends. However, despite the curtain call Reid’s time on stage does not end there and you will have to wait for that moment to see why. Just don’t rush to the exits.
This 5* production runs at the Mayflower Southampton until 1 April 2017 then continues to tour