On a recent trip to London, we of course spent every evening at the the theater and saw a range of productions (The Light Princess, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time), each worthy in its own way.
But The Curious Incident was particularly outstanding, and I write here a bit about it because it is likely to come to the US.
If it does, go out of your way to see it. And get tickets early.
The play is based on a best-selling 2003 novel by British writer Mark Haddon. The book (the same title) has had much success, winning a variety of awards (Best Novel, Best Book of the Year, etc.) and has been universally praised for its portrait of a 15-year-old boy who describes himself as ‘mathematician with some behavioral difficulties.’
The story, in both the book and the play, is about this boy, Christopher, variously described by others as having Asperger Syndrome, High Functioning Autism, and/or being an Autistic Savant (tho not by Haddon). Christopher discovers his neighbor’s dog has been stabbed with a pitch fork. He sets out to solve the mystery of who killed the dog, even though he has been told not to do so by his father.
The novel has been adapted for the stage by Simon Stephens who adheres closely to the book (as well as I can remember it). Christopher attends a school for ‘students with special needs,’ and his particular gifts and difficulties unfold as he sets about to find the culprit who killed the dog.
In addition to Christopher, the story also focuses on his parents, his father who is a plumber and has outbursts of temper and his mother who reacts to the stress of Christopher’s difficulties with depression. But mostly it is a portrait of Christopher, and a powerful portrait it is.
Marianne Elliott, who co-directed War Horse and a new play, The Light Princess, has taken Stephens’ adaptation and given us a stunning evening of theater. Together with outstanding choreography, sound, lighting, and set design, the two and a half hour play is as good as any I have seen in the last few years.
Like the novel, the play has won numerous awards, including seven 2013 Laurence Olivier Awards (Best New Play, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Best Sound Design, Best Lighting, and Best Set Design). It should have also won for Best Choreography.
Currently at the Apollo Theater in London, The Curious Incident is a production of The National Theatre and is currently booked there through October 2014, tho it will probably extend much longer. There has been talk and rumors of it coming to Broadway, but I have not been able to confirm when that might occur. Additionally, a film is also currently planned, written and directed by Steve Kloves.
For more in depth reviews, check out Ben Brantley’s NY Times review, Unnerved, Like All of Us, by Life’s Strangeness. and/or Lyn Gardner’s rave review in The Guardian.
Oh yes. Be sure to stay for the Appendix which comes after the actors and actresses have taken their well deserved bows. It’s brilliant.