The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time: Bristol Hippodrome

June 22 2017

Adapted from the award-winning novel, Curious… the stage version (also award-wining) premiered in 2012.

Adapted from the award-winning novel, Curious… the stage version (also award-wining) premiered in 2012. It’s fundamentally the story of a family breakdown, as witnessed by its young protagonist, 15-year-old Christopher Boon. Christopher has autism, perhaps, though his difference is never named, and it’s through the staging and production of this incredible, absorbing play that we come to inhabit his world. 

Bristol Hippodrome is transformed into a giant cube, grid patterns, like squared-paper, over all of its sides, with bright white edges, depicting the world as the boy sees it. He draws chalk faces and circles on the floor – they appear on the walls, rain is bright streaks of light, a slap is a flash of lightning, numbers and letters fall like snow in a whirlwind – it’s all black and white, and Christopher always tells the truth.

Wellington, a neighbour’s dog, is found dead, killed with a garden fork. The boy uses his detective skills to investigate. The plot evolves through conversations with the boy’s special school teacher, who is reading the book Christopher has written, which becomes a play, which we are watching. As they talk, Christopher builds a trainset, slowly, scene by scene. The first half ends with a magical moment where the toy train starts moving of its own accord, and the windows of the buildings he’s placed along the track suddenly light up.

The curtains never come down - through the interval we watch stage hands clearing the space, placing the white blocks that are used as scenery, chatting across clipboards. 

The second half features a journey, from Swindon, via unknown streets, train and underground, into London. Jostling commuters, cacophonous roaring of crowds - cast members move slickly in perfect synchronisation – it’s all a gorgeous piece of choreography. A highlight is in the light and dark and red lights and noise of a tube journey, where Christopher is lifted high by 2 commuters, and runs around the walls. 

The boy’s logic and intonations of speech feel authentic, and we come to inhabit his world, so his challenges become ours. It’s an intense, chaotic, overwhelming world, which logic and numbers can sooth. And a cameo by the most adorable puppy, near the end of the show, proves love and connection is possible. Outstanding.

Beccy Golding