Venue: The Grand Opera House, York
As one of the select few in this world who has not read the infamous The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, I did not know what to expect as I entered York’s Grand Opera House, let alone how on earth such a peculiar story would be staged. Then again, even if I had read the novel, it would not have prepared me any more for the fantastical two and a half hours that lay ahead of me.
Entering the theatre, I was enthralled by the geometric, monochromatic cube that was the stage – and the dead dog, too. There were almost no props to be seen, and certainly no way for characters to enter, or exit. After sitting down, the performance started almost abruptly – the lights went down in a flash and techno-inspired music blared out of the speakers. Strobe lighting filled the stage as the (very few) actors entered. This high energy entrance certainly grabbed your attention, and the performance didn’t let go of this until the very end.
The ingenuity of the entire play was truly astounding. The way in which the set became so malleable – cupboards hidden within the three walls, all surfaces being used as chalk boards, plus the integrated light displays across the whole set – complimented so well the diversity of the actors themselves, who took on multiple roles, as well becoming multiple objects. Light and sound were key to the whole performance and both really helped immerse you within Christopher’s world, echoing his own statement that light, in particular, ‘is the way we receive information’.
Alongside this mind-blowing set, the cast themselves were also pretty darn good. It was quite clever the way in which the actors performed was relatively simple compared to the high-tech stage they worked upon. The use of physical theatre throughout was something I particularly enjoyed, hinting at the performance’s National Theatre roots. All actors were well suited to their parts and worked off each other brilliantly. It goes without saying that Joshua Jenkins (Christopher) was on-point, as his portrayal of Christopher was humorous yet incredibly touching and sensitive. Stuart Laing’s performance as Christopher’s father was also excellent, and the progression of his character throughout the play was something that I certainly took note of, and was impressed by.
Additionally, it is not only Simon Stephens’ adaptation of this novel for stage that should be commended for such a wonderful piece of theatre, but also the direction of Marianne Elliott, who’s vision certainly made this performance of The Curious… spectacular.
It is honestly difficult to find fault in this production. Maybe this is because it is the type of contemporary, quirky drama that is usually right up my street, or maybe it is because it is just a beautiful piece of theatre. I must admit, it is probably a bit of both, however that does not detract from the dynamic, cinematic and intense experience that you become a part of when you watch it. For this reason, I cannot urge you more to go and see it – if nothing else, you’ll want to see the puppy at the end.