The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Feb 21 2017 | By More

✭✭✭✭✩    Spectacular

Festival Theatre: Mon 20 – Sat 25 Feb 2017
Review by Hugh Simpson

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, the UK National Theatre’s celebrated, award-winning adaptation of Mark Haddon’s novel, is back at the Festival Theatre until Saturday, and remains a beautifully staged, complex piece.

Simon Shepherd’s adaptation of the story of Christopher Boone, the 15-year-old who has problems with understanding metaphors, gauging other people’s moods and the colour brown, is remarkably faithful to the original – even to the point of representing the book’s appendix on stage.

David Michaels (Ed) and Scott Reid (Christopher Boone). Photo: BrinkhoffMögenburg

The portrayal of how maths whizz Christopher attempts to solve the mystery of the killing of a neighbourhood dog, instead discovering buried secrets about those around him, continues to thrill audiences with its combination of thoroughly involving story-telling and impressive visual effects.

However, it is not quite the all-conquering five-star show it may have been previously. Perhaps it is beginning to show its age – updating date references to 2016 doesn’t quite cut the mustard in a story that was clearly written when mobiles were relatively rare, for example – but there are a couple of problems.

The first is in the character of Christopher himself. There is no doubt that he is brilliantly played by Scott Reid, who is on stage throughout and on this showing will soon be known for a great deal more than Still Game. It is well known, however, that Haddon was annoyed that the publishers used the phrase ‘Asperger Syndrome’ on the cover of the book when the narrative itself confines its description to ‘Behavioural Problems.’

Seeing the character in front of you is markedly different from reading a novel told from his point of view; leaving aside the debate that rumbles on regarding how fair the characterisation is, or how much research had been done (and this is a more immediate problem in a dramatisation, particularly regarding his violent outbursts) it does also affect the storytelling.

unbalancing effect

In a book with an unreliable narrator such as Christopher – who never lies, but fails to recognise the importance of much that he sees – the reader pieces together the true story for themselves long before he does. Here, the audience sees that truth in front of them, meaning that they realise things either much earlier or later than the action really requires. This has an unbalancing effect, as does the two-act structure; the second half, largely in London, seems too long, however impressive the flashing lights, words and white noise that mirror the sensory overload of Christopher’s journey.

Scott Reid (Christopher Boone) & company. Photo: BrinkhoffMögenburg

The production, moreover, relies on two disparate methods of telling the story. Christopher’s narrative is largely shared between him and his teacher Siobhan. Once again, the acting is tremendous, thanks to the excellent Lucianne McEvoy, but it does mean that it becomes too much tell and not enough show, with some of the supporting characters reduced to grotesques.

Alongside this is the beautifully drilled, almost balletic movement of the cast in some superbly realised physical sequences, with Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett’s movement direction outstanding; while both elements work, there is an odd disjunct between them.

When the emotion is most realistically portrayed is when the effect is strongest; Emma Beattie, as Christopher’s mother, and David Michaels, as his father, are both heartbreakingly real and complicated, with wordless moments they both share with their son being particularly strong. The strength of these episodes contrasts neatly with some lighter, meta-theatrical ‘but this is a play’ moments that thankfully are used sparingly.

Any of the nagging doubts expressed earlier can easily be swept away in the feast of sound, light and movement conjured up by director Marianne Elliott, with Bunny Christie’s design and Paula Constable’s lighting worth the price of a ticket on their own. What is most heartening is that the constant parade of school parties that are attending the tour, will not see the flat, ‘will this do?’ approach taken by so many touring adaptations of set texts, but will rather see something that is so resolutely theatrical.

Running time 2 hours 30 minutes including one interval
Festival Theatre, 13/29 Nicolson Street EH8 9FT
Monday 20 – Saturday 25 February 2017
Evenings at 7.30 pm, Matinees Thurs & Sat at 2.30 pm
Tickets and details at:

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time on tour 2017:
20 – 25 Feb Edinburgh
Festival Theatre
0131 529 6000 Book online
28 Feb – 4 March Leeds
Grand Theatre
0844 848 2700 Book online
6 – 11 March Canterbury
The Marlowe Theatre
01227 787787 Book online
14 – 25 March Bath
Theatre Royal
01225 448844 Book online
27 March – 1 April Southampton
The Mayflower Theatre
02380 711811 Book online
4 – 15 April Nottingham
Theatre Royal
0115 989 5555 Book online
18 – 22 April Belfast
Grand Opera House
02890 241919 Book online
25 – 29 April Dublin
Bord Gais Energy Theatre
0818 719 377 Book online
2 – 6 May Cardiff
Wales Millennium Centre
029 2063 6464 Book online
9 – 20 May Sheffield
Lyceum Theatre
0114 249 6000 Book online
22 – 27 May Oxford
New Theatre
0844 871 3020 Book online
30 May – 10 June Newcastle
Theatre Royal
08448 11 21 21 Book online
13 – 17 June Bristol
0844 871 3012 Book online
26 June – 1 July Plymouth
Theatre Royal
01752 230440 Book online
3 – 8 July Birmingham
0844 338 5000 Book online
11 – 15 July Llandudno
Venue Cymru
01492 872000 Book online
18 – 22 July Southend on Sea
Cliffs Pavilioin
01702 351135 Book online
25 – 29 July Liverpool
08448 713 017 Book online
31 July – 5 Aug Bradford
01274 432 000 Book online
8 – 12 Aug Aberdeen
His Majesty’s Theatre
01224 641122 Book online
14 – 19 Aug Glasgow
King’s Theatre
0844 871 7648 Book online
29 Aug – 2 Sept Norwich
Theatre Royal
01603 63 00 00 Book online
4 – 16 Sept Milton Keynes
Milton Keynes Theatre
08448 717652 Book online


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