Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Re-review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

If you don't know the plot of Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, or anything about the adaptation by Simon Stephens and Marianne Elliott's hit production, you can read my previous reviews from when it ran at the Cottesloe and the Apollo, to get up to speed. The latter run came to an abrupt end when the ceiling fell in, but after a 7-month hiatus it's back, crossing the road to the Gielgud. It's not a desire to see the show in every theatre it sets up camp in that brought me back a third time (I won't be following it around on its upcoming tour or to Broadway, I'm not a crazy person.) It was rather the second major cast change that made me want to witness its return. Not just Graham Butler as the painfully literal-minded protagonist Christopher Boone, but Nicolas Tennant as his father Ed also seemed like perfect casting.

In the other major roles Emily Joyce takes over as Christopher's mother Judy, and Sarah Woodward as Siobhan, his teacher and one of the very few humans he actually trusts.

With Elliott back to oversee its relaunch, the show feels as fresh and energetic as ever - it even seems to have shed ten minutes from its running time. Butler has said he didn't see the original production so he brings his own take to Christopher; like Luke Treadaway he speaks in the flat, staccato voice of someone who doesn't quite experience or express emotions in the same way as other people, but there's also something a bit more vulnerable and geeky about his performance. (Since these publicity shots were taken there seems to have been a slight tweak of Bunny Christie's costume designs for Christopher - he starts out in a T-shirt that says "π" and later changes into one with a NASA logo on it.) Tonight Butler also had to do a bit of in-character improvising when Sandy didn't quite do what he was meant to.

At the Apollo I wasn't quite as taken with the actors playing Christopher's parents but Tennant and Joyce really capture this weary, frustrated but loving approach to a son who, among his various behavioural problems, most painfully of all won't let them hug him. I didn't think Woodward and Butler really had the chemistry that shows how important Siobhan is to Christopher, but overall the show feels in good hands, and I hope its absence from the stage hasn't slowed its momentum as the audience were as thrilled by it as ever - especially once the ending, which Stephens has made slightly more ambiguous than in the book, gets blown away by the triumphant Appendix.

I can't believe it took me until the third time reviewing this to realise I should have been writing in Christopher's favourite colour.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Simon Stephens, based on the book by Mark Haddon, is booking until the 14th of February 2015 at the Gielgud Theatre.

Running time: 2 hours 35 minutes including interval and Appendix.

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