Curiosity Killed The Dog

The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.” Mark Haddon (Author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time)

I’ve broken my own rules. I’ve no-one else to blame but myself and let’s face it no-one actually cares but me! What have I done? In my little world of OCDness (yes I made up a word too) my last post about Burlesque was out of chronological order of events in my life and I like my blog to run in order, yes I know I need to get out more!! So I’m jumping back to the summer again for this and the next post to round up my summer trip.

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London is always at its best in the sun

Our last day out in London was back to the familiar sights of Regent Street, Carnaby Street and the lovely Liberty’s for some last minute retail therapy followed by another trip to the theatre.IMG_6656

Glittery Union Jack in Carnaby Street

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The three dimensional art installation that features fifty-one oversized light bulbs suspended over Ganton Street.

It was lovely day of strolling around in the sun visiting some of my favourite places in London (abandoned Selfridges for once as Bond Street station was closed and the summer crowds in Oxford Street were heaving) with a Whole Foods Green Smoothie in one hand and pre-theatre dinner at Bills in Soho on the agenda early evening.

IMG_6659Love the traditional red telephone boxes outside Liberty

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Liberty prints made into quirky animal heads

The teenager was very lucky to have received two tickets for ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time‘ showing in the West End as a 16th birthday present from family friends. In a complete contrast to the previous week’s show, The Commitments (see post here) the evenings entertainment was of the more serious nature, no singing and dancing in this show!

IMG_6668The new home of ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’, the Gielgud Theatre

Now the teenager had read the book but I hadn’t so we were going into the theatre with totally different outlooks and expectations, me with a completely open mind (I had read some reviews so knew the basic story) and her with an air of disbelief of how this novel could be successfully adapted to the stage.

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The show, now at its third home at the Gielgud Theatre (opened with a new cast in late June this year), was forced to move when its run at the Apollo Theatre was halted quite dramatically because the theatre ceiling collapsed during a performance injuring audience members. 

IMG_6667The first thing that struck me when I entered the Gielgud’s auditorium was the simple, no nonsense set designed like a huge piece of illuminated graph paper and the random prime numbered chairs in different rows covered in a grey seat covers. The play, adapted from Mark Haddon’s novel, is about Christopher Boone, the teenage genius mathematician with behavioural difficulties and is an unrestrained account of his life portraying the difficulties faced by a boy with Aspergers Syndrome and how it effects on his immediate family.

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Butler as Boone (www.whatsonstage.com)

Boone’s character (28-year-old Graham Butler plays the teenager, bit of a stretch I know) has a limited range of emotional responses but is mega intelligent (taking his Maths A level three years early). He’s quirky, doesn’t understand metaphors or jokes and detests any form of human contact even from his nearest and dearest, his parents. In an attempt to investigate the death of his neighbours dog (which his father forbade him to do) he forces himself to communicate with strangers and the awkwardness of these interactions were portrayed in such great depth that you actually feel the tension and discomfort too.

imageChristopher lies in the foetal position in his room whilst a family domestic erupts outside (source:www.timeout.com/london)

The play follows both Boone’s physical and emotional journey from his discovery of the dead dog impaled with a garden fork, his self imposed role as detective running his own investigation into the murder (emulating his hero Sherlock Holmes), his schooling at a special needs facility, his difficult home life in Swindon and his attempt to run away to visit his estranged mother in London, with his pet rat Toby in tow. (particularly brilliant scenes as he attempts to navigate public transport and deal with the general public).

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The amazing mathematical grid-like set (source:www.officiallondontheatre.co.uk)

Clever staging with an interactive and innovative high tech set helped set the scenes. It  showed diagrams, maps, train tracks, astrological constellations and millions of numbers (Boone is obsessed with prime numbers) that all came to life to give the audience a glimpse into the inner workings of Boone’s mind and his lack of social understanding. The grid was also used to show different times and locations and even turned into the moving escalator in the London Underground scene (my fave). There were frantic and dramatic moments when Boone was immersed in assembling a large working model train set across the whole stage, piece by piece that was stored in secret doors across the whole stage.

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The very clever set even transformed into a London Underground escalator (source:www.whatsonstage.com)

We stayed behind, like the majority of the audience to hear Boone’s breathlessness explanation of the mathematical formulae from his A level question. This fast paced play is amazing, reflected by receiving seven Olivier Awards to date, but a prevailing adult theme throughout make it’s suitability for younger children tricky. It touches on sensitive subjects like death, marriage break-ups, affairs, deceit, mental health and behavioural issues and how that can tear a family apart. There was moments of swearing and moments of humour with some very tense and heartbreaking scenes and even a cute live puppy on stage which drew the expected oohs and aahs from the audience.

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Father and son have an awkward relationship (source:www.whatsonstage.com)

In programme notes Haddon says “I’ve always regretted that the phrase ‘Aspergers Syndrome’ appeared on the cover of ‘Curious Incident’ when it was first published.” and the reason for that statement is it sparked debate about whether he had given an accurate representation of someone with Aspergers. His final sentence “If I was being particularly contentious I might say that ‘Curious’ is not really about Christopher at all. It’s about us.” In reality, I think the book later brought to life as a play has raised the awareness of Aspergers Syndrome and helped people to empathise with those unique individuals who have it. The cast have visited and worked with children with Aspergers and the book itself has now been selected as a set text for GCSE students so its message will continue to spread.

89467Christopher with teacher Siobhan and his mother in the background (source:www.whatsonstage.com)

All in all the teenager concluded that the book had been well translated to the stage and we both throughly enjoyed the play (even me, without reading it beforehand). Even though it’s dealing with difficult subject matter ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time‘ is a modern, innovative and emotional piece of theatre that was impressive from start to finish, a must see production if you are in London in the near future (or maybe New York as it opened on Broadway on 10th September).

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Goodbye London, until next time………

For more information about tickets for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time visit the Gielgud Theatre website here

Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this page © Jo Brett 2014. All rights reserved.