Theatre Review: Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a technical marvel (Adelaide & Perth Performances Remain)

The acclaimed touring West End production of Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time wrapped up its Sydney last night, before it heads off to Adelaide and Perth. Based on the celebrated book of the same name by Mark Haddon, the play tells the story of Christopher Boone (Joshua Jenkins in a masterful performance), a 15 year old (3 months and 2 days old) boy with Asperger’s Syndrome, whose discovery of his neighbour’s murdered dog ends up unravelling everything he thought he knew about his life, and leading him on a brave adventure into the unknown.

The book, which was written in the voice of Boone himself, was celebrated for its unique storytelling approach, and so its no surprise that the play has celebrated itself for the same. Writing a book for his teacher, Boone’s narration remains scattered throughout the production, by way of his teacher’s voice; a clever way to maintain the tone of the novel. The script also involves some clever breaking down of the fourth wall, and don’t be surprised to see some characters amongst the crowd. But it really is the staging and lighting where this show shines; one of the most technically impressive plays ever produced. Certainly from a technical aspect, the only play I’ve seen that surpasses this is the current West End production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

The stage is covered in black and white grids, with bright white lights accenting the architecture of the stage. Sets are created using blocks, projections, stellar lighting, minor props and people. Scenes are accomplished with torches and the jumps in dialogue from that of the character to the narration from the teacher; the way the show plays with time is also of particular praise. It all combines to make the show more comparable to Stephen Lars Von Trier’s 2003 film Dogville (which its soundstage set brings forth the obvious comparison), than any other contemporary stage production.

As one would expect for a travelling production featuring members of the West End touring production, the performances are outstanding, as they bring heart and humour into a story which is, at times, quite a harrowing journey. And Joshua Jenkins as Boone – who I would have to imagine is a remarkably difficult character to play (not to mention to cast), is a marvel who has to hold the whole show together – and does so dutifully.

As in any stage production, things can be over-the-top at times, but never to the point it detracts from the show. Meanwhile, a variety of techniques – both in staging and sound design – are utilised to add an extra level of intensity to the show’s more powerful moments; particularly when Boone’s mental state is at its most vulnerable. You’ll find the second act more emotionally powerful than the first (though a very special guest towards the end will warm your heart), and it’s after intermission where you’ll find scenes like the one in a London Underground station, which are among its most climactic – with the stage and sound design really used to full effect to achieve the setting. You can feel the train as though it was there.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is an inspired adaptation and one of the greatest theatrical experiences of our generation. The balance of borrowing from the most rudimentary of theatre techniques while equally embracing the technological advances of modern production, is nothing short of outstanding. I’ve never seen a show like it. If you’re in Adelaide or Perth don’t miss this rare opportunity to see an award winning National Theatre of Great Britain production – and make sure to stick around after curtain call! 

FIVE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time continues on to Adelaide’s Entertainment Centre Theatre for seven shows only, 31 July – 4 August 2018 and then concludes its Australian run in Perth at His Majesty’s Theatre from 8 – 19 August 2018. For tickets and more details head HERE.

The reviewer attended closing night of the Sydney production on 28th July 2018 as a guest of the Roslyn Packer Theatre.

Larry Heath

Founding Editor of the AU review. You can find him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.