By Simon Stephens. Adapted from the novel by Mark Haddon. Directed by Ashlie Corcoran. At the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage on Wednesday, September 12. Continues until October 6
There’s a lot that works in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, though it takes a bit of time for the story to take flight.
The play is based on Mark Haddon’s best-selling novel, narrated by 15-year-old Christopher, a mathematical genius with a never-identified autism spectrum disorder. When he discovers the body of the neighbour’s dog, who has been killed with a pitchfork, he decides to investigate the murder and keep notes, despite his father’s warnings not to get involved in other people’s business.
Other people’s business is often perplexing to Christopher, who can’t lie, hates being touched, and doesn’t understand emotions. The novel’s chief pleasure is its first-person narration, which lets us in on Christopher’s unique way of seeing the world and his frequent obliviousness to the meaning of the events he’s recounting. It’s also the aspect of the novel that’s hardest to translate to the stage.
Playwright Simon Stephens replicates some of this perspective with a combination of direct address to the audience by Christopher and readings from his notebook by his teacher, Siobhan. But conveying Christopher’s sensibility falls largely to the director and designers. In her Arts Club debut, director Ashlie Corcoran and set designer Drew Facey make a bold departure from the busy grids and boxes of the London/Broadway production, creating a spacious playing area dominated by round shapes: circles, semicircles, and arches, covered with patterns of flickering light.
The script is faithful to the novel’s plot and chronology, which means that the long first act is mostly exposition. But when Christopher embarks on a train journey to London in the second act, all the elements coalesce into an electrifying sequence, as Christopher navigates unfamiliar settings and crowds (choreographed by Kayla Dunbar), accompanied by Itai Erdal’s expressive lighting and Patrick Pennefather’s propulsive score.
Daniel Doheny is a knockout as Christopher. His slightly ducked head, averted gaze, dangling arms, and nervous pats on his leg are all convincing expressions of Christopher’s social discomfort: “I don’t do chatting,” he tells a neighbour. Doheny’s matter-of-fact delivery often elicits laughs, but it is never mocking. As his main supports, Ghazal Azarbad, Todd Thomson, and Jennifer Copping are all strong.
The rest of the cast play smaller parts and function as a physical chorus, sometimes echoing Christopher’s gestures and sometimes becoming the world he inhabits. Watching him open up to and learn to trust that world—and its people—is a moving experience.More