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  • Theatre Trip Review - 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time' at the Apollo, London

Theatre Trip Review - 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time' at the Apollo, London

26th September 2014

Adrianna Paniak, Year 13 Drama and Theatre Studies Student

"The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" is a stage adaptation of a 2003 mystery novel by Mark Hadon which won the Whitbread Book Awards for Best Novel and Book of the Year among other prestigious literary awards. From the moment I heard that Drama and Theatre Students were going to see a play based on the book I read as a child, I was excited and worried at the same time, thinking was it the same "Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" I recalled? The book is narrated in the first-person by the 15 year old Christopher Boone, the protagonist, who sees "the world in a surprising and revealing way", having difficulties in basic elements of social interaction but an expert in the field of Mathematics. He describes himself as "a mathematician with some behavioral difficulties" and when he finds Wellington, the beloved dog of his neighbour Mrs Shears dead on the lawn he decides to follow in the footsteps of his favourite detective Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Doctor Watson to find out his murderer. During his investigation he uncovers a terrible secret which sends him off on an adventure he will never forget.

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The play itself staged in the interiors of the one hundred year old Apollo Theatre, a Grade II listed West End theatre, on Shaftesbury Avenue, engages with the book from the moment you step into the foyer, with decor of the theatre completely changed with stickers, signs and posters; quotes from the book, diagrams and warnings reflecting Christopher's quirks. We were very fortunate to sit in the stalls which is the area the closest to the stage with the central view of the actors walking on from the audience. The stage was a three-sided cube with a very logical structure to it with a horizontal and a vertical graph on its sides which fits with the expressionist idea of expressing a character or a theme within the stage design. The main difference of the book to the play is that on stage, Christopher is persuaded by Siobhan, his teacher to make a play out of his life, which is the producer's way of portraying the narrative, allowing him to manipulate the action and reminding the audience that what they are seeing,is Christopher's version of events which may not be reliable.

The show is fast paced from the moment the lights go down in the auditorium gripping the audience on a journey of finding yourself, growing up and going into the future, believing that no matter what circumstances you find yourself in, you can do anything! For a long time "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" has been labelled as the book about Asperger's Syndrome which in itself was heavily regretted by the writer who never specified Christopher's illness and stated on his blog that "curious incident is not a book about asperger's....if anything it's a novel about difference, about being an outsider...The book is not specifically about any specific disorder". However it is suspected to be a combination of different characteristics associated with high-functioning autism such as repetitive interests, differences in perception and an unusually sophisticated vocabulary at a young age.

The actor playing Christopher, Jack Loxton, deserves high praise for his phenomenal performance debuting on the stage of the West End; he created a very reliable representation of a complex character. A drama school graduate and an understudy who plays the lead at some performances performed without once losing his concentration and even if he did I didn't notice. He remembered chunks of dialogue which included answers to math problems, lists and anecdotes without once stepping off the stage. He was constantly in the moment, only aware of the stage which was the key to his convincing performance as a boy who happens to see the world differently, seeing all the details ordinary people miss. You simply couldn't take your hypnotized eyes of him because even when he was just breathing, the magnetic stillness he created, meant you were engaged by him at all times.

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The ensemble cast enriched the show with their memorable performances with Golda Rosheuvel as the school mistress who made the whole audience laugh on their bellies with every line of dialogue. Trevor Fox and Amanda Drew star as Christopher's parents Ed and Judy, captivating the dynamics of a separated couple conflicted over their son's wellbeing and Gay Soper as Christopher's neighbour, Mrs. Alexander who puts him on the trail of the real mystery regarding his parents. Rakie Ayola plays Siobhan, Christopher's para-professional and mentor at school. She is central to understanding Christopher as she is the person that understands him the most, while teaching him about society's guidelines and how to behave in its complexity. Nearly everyone played multiple roles which created a perspective on the stage that was fuller than it really was but instead of leaving when they played their part they sat on the edges of the stage watching the show with as much concentration as when they were performing. There weren't any major set change as the locations were demonstrated with the use of a very innovative technical animated projection, in addition to the movement, sound and lighting. It's a really treat just to see all these technical areas working together to made the invisible visible. Physical theatre is one of the driving forces of this piece and was choreographed by artists Frantic Assembly, who specialize in creating "thrilling, energetic and unforgettable theatre" which is vivid and dynamic combining Frantic Assembly's unique physical style combines movement, design, music and text.

Overall the show didn't win 7 Tony Awards for nothing, it is one of the best new shows out there and it comes from the National Theatre who brought us the incredible War Horse, so it is no surprise they had another hit on their hands. Personally, my expectations weren't too high because of the difficulties I thought might occur with the staging of such an idea however I was proved wrong, exceeding my expectations by a hundred light years! As the purpose of going to see the show was to inspire the students to create their own devised theatre, that function was definitely fulfilled, as I came out with ideas on acting skills, stage design, lighting and sound. It's well worth seeing if you enjoy contemporary theatre, live in London or are a fan of the book. You can get a bargain ticket on the day with 150 tickets for £12 sold at the door or book early online with prices starting as low as £15.