“My name is Christopher John Francis Boone. I know all the countries of the world and their capital cities and every prime number up to 7,507.”
It’s an early and perfect introduction to the world in which we find ourselves on a Saturday night. This is the opening of ATC’s latest production: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
Having decided to solve the mystery of who murdered his neighbour’s dog, Wellington, fifteen-year-old Christopher (Tim Earl) embarks upon a journey that takes him from Swindon all the way to London. Along the way he bumps into various characters and is forced to navigate an enormous multi-sensory world – one that is still largely intolerant of difference.
The set is an immediate representation of the highly textured, precise and monochrome lens through which our young protagonist views the world. John Verryt once again shows his immense technical skill in creating a world of almost mathematical precision, his split level cube design and checkerboard layout is both an apt metaphor for our hero’s experience of the world as well as his re-telling of this story.
Adapted by Simon Stephens, this stage production remains faithful to Mark Haddon’s novel, to the point it almost requires some judicious editing. Nevertheless, Sara Brodie’s direction is swift and unrelenting, exposing us to a stream-of-consciousness that is beautifully cradled by both Christopher and his teacher Siobhan (Siobhan Marshall). Having two voices narrate the story varies both the pace and delivery and successfully gives this work a sensitivity and depth that makes the stage production incredibly engaging.
The leads are supported by a multi-talented ensemble with Wesley Dowdell as Christopher’s loving but frustrated father, Ed, and Hera Dunleavy as his mother, Judy, the latter a woman whose honestly reflects the challenges of raising children who think, respond and behave differently to what has been ‘normalised’ by society.
Damien Avery, Rima Te Wiata, Mel Odedra, Victoria Abbott and Peter Hayden also give strong performances, playing numerous characters with skill and deftness. Together the cast create a whirring world that is constantly on the move – a world that changes, evolves, rises and falls to create multiple surfaces for Tim Gruchy’s simple but highly effective AV design.
Occasionally there are a few disparities between the quasi-realistic world of the play and the choices occasionally made (blood on the floor but not on the face) but these are minor quibbles. The lighting also tends to flatten out some of the actor’s facial features; again, these are not major concerns. The production does tend to veer, especially towards the end, towards a somewhat ‘cutesy’ ending but in my experience over the past two years this is most definitely one of ATC’s most successful theatrical productions.