You wouldn’t, of course. But in the unlikely chance you should ever pause to wonder how Phil behaves in a train toilet* then hasten yourself along to see the The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
This is not intended to put you off booking a ticket for Simon Stephens‘ adaptation of Mark Haddon‘s novel about Christopher (Luke Treadaway) a 15-year-old mathematics wiz occupying a position somewhere on the autism/aspergers spectrum.
Christopher discovers his neighbour’s dog dead (Ken Dodd’s dog died. Did he? No, Doddy), impaled by a garden fork. Initially under suspicion himself, his enthusiasm for Sherlock Holmes inspires him to embark on his own investigation but he uncovers more than he bargains for.
Andrew had read the book and liked it very much. Phil had heard of it. But it really shouldn’t have worked for the Whingers. TCIOTDITNT is presented with the unfortunate double handicap of: 1. in-the-round staging and 2. at the Cottesloe, eek. Yet, and it sticks in our throats to say, it’s seems the ideal location and the one occasion where a perch in one of the theatre’s upper levels affords a terrific overview of the frequently stunning visuals. The graph-paper stage by the prolific Bunny Christie (need we say more?), lighting by Paule Constable and video design by Finn Ross all but threaten to steal the show.
That’s not to undermine Treadaway’s intense and convincing central performance and even more extraordinary ability to draw massive near-perfect chalk circles (cast him in Brecht someone!) on the stage floor. Treadaway has little to beat but the design; the rest of the actors – including WEW-favoured Una Stubbs - aren’t handed much to work with in their relatively minor roles and although Paul Ritter has moments as the father with troubles of his own, it’s all about the boy.
Most of the supporting cast’s roles are plumped up by playing extras: everything from passengers to waves. “A bit drama studenty sometimes,” Andrew grunted at the break. Some of director Marianne Elliot‘s cleverest moments are after the interval: a train journey, an underground station, and Christopher’s first trip on an escalator, which comes with an enjoyably cheeky bit of National Theatre product placement on the side.
There’s plenty of humour on show, especially in Chistopher’s brilliantly logical take on life: the scene where he sleeps on top of passengers’ luggage is charmingly realised to reflect his character. The feel-goodish ending might have made the Whingers question what is normal, if we hadn’t always been asking ourselves that already.
Andrew was disquieted by the dead dog, but was compensated by appearances of a live rat and another animal which emerges Blue Peter-style (for those old enough to remember) from a box and elicited much cooing among the audience. Disappointingly, but sensibly, it didn’t get much stage time; no one could possibly have been listening to the text during the scene. The Whingers certainly weren’t.
At 2 hours 40 minutes it goes on too long; cutting about half an hour and the interval would have seen us emerge with even more enthusiasm.
In a very justifiable send up of “Premium Seating” some of the audience find themselves in designated “prime seats”. Phil did and it’s a long time since he’s been in any sort of prime.
* It’s a hygiene thing should you be worrying.
1. Mr Treadaway may have got his willy out but we were sitting at the wrong end of the auditorium so can’t be sure which is why we haven’t mentioned the elephant in the room.
2. Andrew may have problems with a prop dead dog, but apparently none with a severed head in the National Theatre’s Props Bar post-show. It’s from Danny Boyle’s Frankenstein and sadly about as close to the Olympics as we’re likely to get.