Mark Haddon’s award-winning novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is often labelled ‘that book about the teenager with Asperger’s’, but it is about much more than that. In fact it is through the supremely logical and truthful eyes of maths-obsessed Christopher Boone that we learn not just about his own struggles with the ambiguities of everyday life, but also how those close to him buckle under the emotional pressures they face.
Niamh Cusack (Siobhan) and Luke Treadway (Christopher Boone) in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at the Cottesloe Theatre, National, London Photo: Manuel Harlan
The best thing then about Marianne Elliott’s production, adapted for the stage by Simon Stephens, is that we see the world through Christopher’s eyes, whether it is through the murder mystery story he writes after having discovered his neighbour’s dog killed with a garden fork, or the massive sensory overload of noise and images that overwhelms him when he bravely journeys to London. Witnessing the huge strain on his parents - unconditional in their love but desperate in their frustration - is the more powerful because we see that Christopher is seemingly immune to the complexities of their feelings.
Elliott’s staging and Bunny Christie’s simple but innovative, hi-tech, in-the-round design, alongside Paule Constable’s lighting and Ian Dickinson’s sound design, makes for an outstanding collaboration. Maybe the seats labelled with prime numbers are a bit gimmicky, but the grid-like stage on which Christopher’s thoughts are projected allows us an idea of how he perceives the world around him. It is as if it is a chess board and members of the ensemble are the pieces he is using to tell his story, only functioning as characters when he desires them to be present. Perhaps the sole exception is his teacher Siobhan (Niamh Cusack) whose comforting words he hears even when she is just in his imagination.
Luke Treadaway gives a bravura performance as Christopher, encapsulating everything about the character, from the awkward body language to the many monologues about maths and the solar system which turn out to be amusing and fascinating at the same time. Paul Ritter and Nicola Walker also give beautifully observed and moving portrayals of Christopher’s parents.