Review – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, National Theatre

Thursday 2 August 2012

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.



10 Responses to “Review – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, National Theatre”

  1. webcowgirl Says:

    Man, this was a total 5 star show for me. Well, no, I take it back, the acting (besides Treadaway and Ritter) was not as compelling as it could have been, so maybe 4 1/2, but I think this will certainly be the best new play of the year. Beat the fucking pants off of Birthday, that’s for sure.

  2. Rev Stan Says:

    Having been worried about whether they’d massacre one of my fav books in adapting it for the stage, I actually loved it. Already one of the highlights of the year not least because the Blue Peter animal made his feelings known by peeing on the stage at the first opportunity. Even the cast chuckled.

  3. chris Says:

    great review – agree on all points, but especially the ‘student production’ suggestion. Totally reminded me of Manchester Uni theatre 1983, God Help me. However, my 10 year old daughter is badgering me to say it was brilliant,

  4. wonderstevie Says:

    yeah, it’s good overall – but I really thought the second half dragged quite a lot, which might also be a bit of a problem with the book? They could easily have cut 20 mins or so. That said, first half was brilliant and the lead’s also excellent. Liked the ‘bonus bit’ after it’s all finished too…

  5. Ged Ladd Says:

    Nods of agreement with most of the review and comments. Daisy and I saw it last night and we both loved it. I normally avoid stage adaptations of novels, especially novels I have read and enjoyed. But I had a hunch about this one and have won “told you so” bragging rights with Daisy for at least 24 hours. Meanwhile she keeps getting sent to the sin bin (excellent idea borrowed from the Olympic hockey) with each (alarmingly regular) suggestion that a Ged foible must be “on the spectrum somewhere”. GO see this production – it is truly special..

  6. Monty Kvetsh Says:

    I loved this production from the opening view of The Dog, to the post-curtain call algebra lesson. Though I was apprehensive to see how a much cherished book would be staged, I really felt that the performance not only did the book justice – but works in its own right.

    Like the book, the play is funny, sad, poignant and thought provoking. I really enjoyed the performance in the round to the extent that it made me re-evaluate my feelings for the Cottesloe (always my least favourite part of the National).

    Treadaway’s performance is outstanding. I thought that the very spare staging, the mono sets and the lighting brought out Christopher’s world.

    I might (grudgingly) have to agree with other reviews that have suggested the play a tad over long. I think I could have cheerfully cut some of the transport sequences. The only other thing I wondered about, on the night I went there were a number of young kids in the audience – not quite sure that the language is always entirely suitable for a young audience.

    All in all loved, loved, loved it – the energy, the pace, the physicality, the cast – definitely my best Cottesloe experience.

  7. David Says:

    I thought it was fabulous (if a tiny bit over-long) and Luke Treadaway phenomenal. But just re footnote 1 – he didn’t. It remained safely ensconced in his tracksuit.

  8. Tatielane Says:

    I thought it was superb – especially the use of lighting and props – although I kinda wish I hadn’t already read the book because it could have been good to start with as little comprehension of the “mystery” as Christopher does.

    I have a question… we didn’t get any “prime” seats in our group and I’m dying to know: what was in the envelope?

    • Rex Cherry Says:

      There was a competition to see if the letters in your name added up (A=1; B=2 etc) to a prime number. If they did, then you won a prize which had to be collected from the ticket desk. And the prize was (drumroll) … a little badge.

      The show was fantastic though. And Luke Treadaway owned it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: