Theatre

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at Theatre Royal Bath

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Posted on 17th March 2017

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Theatre Royal Bath

16 March, 2017

A dog lies dead, centre stage, a garden fork sticking from its ribs. The dog's owner yells obscenities at the teenager bending over it. It's an arresting moment – quite literally as it turns out –  and, thus, shockingly and also hilariously, begins the story of Christopher Boone whose life will be forever changed by this single event.

An admirer of Sherlock Holmes, Christopher sets out to discover who murdered the dog, defying his dad's orders not to go poking his nose into other people's business. He brings a forensic skill to his detective work that unearths not just the culprit but numerous skeletons within his own dysfunctional family.

It's a boyish quest, an adventure of bravery, discovery and ultimately success – a story that is once again thrillingly told in this new touring production directed by Marianne Elliott.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, adapted by Simon Stephens and based on the best-selling book by Mark Haddon, is back in Bath following a sell-out 2015 visit. The winner of multiple awards, it has captivated audiences since it was first staged in 2012.

Scott Reid plays Christopher, a teenage maths genius with behavioural problems who attends a special school. Reid pulls from the audience all the empathy that Christopher so lacks. It's a superb performance that portrays with humour all the anxiety and frustration of someone struggling to make sense of an incomprehensible world.

When the going gets tough Christopher chants a soothing mantra of prime numbers and his logic, based on the reliability of algebraic equations, is devastating. He's the one with 'special needs' but the devious, floundering, imperfect behaviour of his parents (David Michaels as his father Ed and Emma Beattie as mother Judy) begs the question of who is at odds with reality.

The story is told via narrative and action against a stunning mixed media backdrop of lighting and video. We experience equally the music of mathematics as he demonstrates the logic of his thinking, and also the chaotic disintegration within Christopher's head as he navigates London's Underground or withstands the rows of his parents.

Performances are all first rate but it is the soothing sensibility of Christopher's teacher Siobhan (sensitively portrayed by Lucianne McEvoy) that conveys the voice of reason. When, having got to the end of his adventure and, despite everything, gained an A* for his A-level exam three years early, it is to her he says “I can do anything.”

Siobhan's silence on this point speaks volumes of uncertainty but the audience has no doubts, the boy's story, the acting and the play having become one. The response is a standing ovation that is mostly for Christopher but is also a tribute to the overall skill and success of the production.

Nor can there be many occasions when Pythagoras' theorem of the square on the hypotenuse achieves poetic heights with theatregoers, but the same audience lingers to hear every word delivered by Christopher at breakneck speed in an appendix at the end of the play. Superb.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is showing until Saturday March 25. Call the Theatre Royal Bath box office on 01225 448844 or go online at www.theatreroyal.org.uk

Jackie Chappell

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