quarridors: Not high on sugar (September 2010)
[personal profile] quarridors
I'm just back from seeing the National Theatre Live version of The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time projected at my local arts cinema. I very greatly enjoyed the play. It's an exceptionally well done adaptation, as innovative as the reviews said and seeing it filmed and projected in my local arts cinema didn't detract (although I'd love to see it performed in person).

What follows is a semi-spoilery review, I'm mostly talking about the adaptation and the staging rather than the story which is close to the original novel.

The play has no set other than a square chalk board stage with a 'graph paper' design, several stackable boxes, hatches in the floor, light boxes at the sides and an advanced projection system that could place imagery on the ground. It's amazing how immersive the story was given the sparse staging. The audience were 'in the round' on all sides of the (square!) stage and the cameras moved around the sides and from above giving close ups and over the shoulder views most of the time.

The sound effects and music were far too loud, presumably because they were supposed to give the audience an idea of what sensory overload feels like -- something that was a bit too effective in my case! Unfortunately there were a couple of scenes where I couldn't parse the dialogue over the loud 'background' music which presumably wasn't intentional!

The narration is initially Christopher's teacher reading his book, or alternatively Christopher himself explaining things to his teacher or father, either with chalk diagrams on the floor or with projected imagery such as the street plan that Christopher then interacts with.

This means the story is still very much told from Christopher's perspective and you're drawn into his world and his senses, seeing projections and hearing everything too loud. Later in the play his teacher suggests that they could make his book into a play and after this point it becomes clear that we're watching that performance as Christopher draws attention to the use of the ensemble cast.

My favourite scenes were the portrayal of Christopher's journey from Swindon to London via the railway station, on the train and into the underground via the escalator. The use of projection of words, motion lines and pathways, the loud overlapping sounds and spoken signs, and the complex dance moves used to portray the sensory chaos and confusion were amazing.

The nature of the play did make me a little self concious of how much time I spend focused on small details and the design, rather than the performances, but I was rewarded at the end by Christopher coming back on stage (in character) and explaining all the technology used to put on the play, then treating us to an explanation of how he solved an equation on his Maths A-level paper. I think more plays should end with jubilant mathematical proofs! :)

All in all, very true to the book, extremely innovatively adapted for theatre and brilliantly acted by the lead and ensemble cast! I hope this performance is released on DVD or for download because I'd love to see it again!
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