Review Round-Up: Critics calculate success for NT's Curious Incident
By Editorial Staff
• 3 Aug 2012
• West End
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, an adaptation of Mark Haddon's 2003 hit novel, opened at the National Theatre last night (02 August 2012, previews from 24 July). The adaptation by Simon Stephens is directed by Marianne Elliott and stars Luke Treadaway as Christopher Boone, an apparently autistic 15-year-old, who sets off to solve the mystery of his neighbour's dogs death.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time runs at the NT Cottesloe until 27 October.
......Simon Stephens' perky and imaginative version of Mark Haddon's cult 2003 novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, cleverly directed by Marianne Elliott, is an instant classic...On the way, there's a lot of stuff about mathematics, but most of that is translated into a brilliant light show, and Luke Treadaway's impersonation of Christopher Boone, the boy who knows all the countries and their capital cities, and all prime numbers up to 7507, is a really touching, probably award-winning, performance... his adventure on the train journey culminates in that terrifying sequence on the underground, which is here rendered with stage-level lights, a trapdoor and a yawning sense of danger. And his teacher suggests he deconstruct his A-level exam answer in a speech to the audience after the curtain-calls; he does, and it's dazzling.
...Luke Treadaway is astonishing as Christopher: with his ramrod straight posture, nervously twitching hands and high, precise voice he is strange, funny, brave and sympathetic. But he is also pitiless... It is devastating to realise, as the play goes on, that in any conventional sense of the word he will never 'love' his mum and dad... As his parents Ed and Judy, Paul Ritter and Nicola Walker are exceptionally powerful and poignant...This adaptation is a bit more middlebrow than I expected from the usually leftfield Stephens, but that's fine: it's absolutely right of him and Elliot to cook up a broadly appealing adaptation that will chime with the bulk of the book's legions of fans.
...Simon Stephens seems the perfect choice to adapt it for the stage... Stephens exults in imagining misfits -- in all their sincerity and weirdness. The action starts with Christopher finding a dead dog.. Fidgety, annoying and occasionally profound, he is played with a mixture of grace and feverish intensity by Luke Treadaway... It's a performance of great physical poise and stunning conviction... There's also a little dig at the recent vogue for so-called premium seats, as some members of the audience are greeted by a sign that declares "You are sitting in a prime seat". It's a nod to Christopher's mathematical enthusiasms; numbers are his friends. But all the seats here are prime: humane and stylish, The Curious Incident is a success from any angle.
...even though I found myself resisting occasional touches of self-conscious cuteness and sentimentality in Marianne Elliott's production, I readily acknowledge the whole thing is done with enormous flair. Playwright Simon Stephens, for a start, solves the problem confronting any adapter. First he has a teacher (Niamh Cusack) reading aloud the story ... then, against Christopher's wishes, the novel is turned into a play. This not only frames the action, but also sets up a rich tension between fiction's invention and the obsession with facts, forensics and systemised data that is a symptom of Christopher's autism... this is a highly skilful adaptation, and Paul Ritter and Nicola Walker as Christopher's parents movingly remind us of the messily contradictory human emotions that co-exist with their son's world of perfect patterns.
Its real problem is that the adaptation finds itself staging what is only implied between the lines of a book narrated by the emotionally isolated Christopher Boone. His world is, therefore, less enigmatic and unsettling than it is in the book. The play’s great strength is Bunny Christie’s mathematical stage design. Her set is a field of graph paper in line with Christopher’s obsession with numbers. He draws with chalk on the floor and lays out a train set while talking to his therapist. Props are conjured from trapdoors like thoughts from his fevered imagination ... The stand-out star ... is Luke Treadaway as Christopher, who is most definitely an actor to watch. Never mannered or self-conscious, he gives a fine physical performance. We’ve not heard the last of Treadaway - or Haddon’s book.
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