Another London theatre this week re-opens its doors. One of the newest venues in London, the Troubadour Theatre in Wembley Park made history last year by being the first indoor venue to re-open for a socially distanced run of Sleepless. They had made clear it was not sustainable to keep a venue open like that though, and it was intended as a beacon of hope before closing again. 14 months later, it is back open again - this time, for good (hopefully). And what a show they have picked to re-open it.
The Curious Incident Of The Dog In the Night-Time is based on the 2003 novel by Mark Haddon. Adapted into a play at the National Theatre in 2012 before moving to the West End where it played on and off until 2017, it has now made the journey back to London for a limited season ahead of a new UK tour to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the play.
The play is centred around Christopher Boone, a 15 year old boy with high-functioning autism and a talent for maths whose investigation about what happened to his neighbours dog takes some surprising turns. Indeed, if you think this whole play is about solving that particular mystery, you'll be surprised to discover that resolves itself in act one. Instead, what transpires is the unravelling of Christopher's world as what he knew to be the truth comes crashing down.
The role is shared by two actors - David Breeds, who most recently was in Dear Evan Hansen and Connor Curren making his professional stage debut. Connor played the role on the night I went to and was an absolute wonder as Christopher, encompassing the essence of the character in a true masterclass of a performance. The remaining cast act as an ensemble, doubling their main roles with more supporting characters. Tom Peters excels playing Christopher's complicated father, while Rebecca Root is wonderful as Siobhan. There are also instances of scene-stealing animals, as is so often the case - but one moment in particular threatened to have the entire audience melt into a puddle of cuteness.
Much has been said about shows not casting correctly in recent months, but for this production of Curious Incident, they have ensured to have a true representative and inclusive cast. Connor himself has autism, while Sophie Stone who tonight was sensational playing the role of Christopher's mother Judy (sharing the role with Kate Kordel) is deaf. Incorporating BSL into the conversation when Judy is talking was a beautiful touch and showed this play is leading the way when it comes to equal representation, regardless of any disability.
Directed by Marianne Elliott, the staging and set design of Curious Incident are some of the greatest aspects of the show. A giant box but sparse in design, the backdrops transform seamlessly, often replicating what Christopher draws on the floor with chalk. Clever video projections attempt to get the audience to see the world in the way Christopher sees it - at times it may be confusing, chaotic and overwhelming but this helps us understand Christopher as a character and, in actual fact, helps the audience understand more about autism in general. One particular sequence involving Christopher on the London underground is absolutely inspired - with extreme lighting and a sense of danger, it evokes genuine stress in anyone observing the scenario. Another testament to the fantastic staging is the slow build of Christophers train set in act one - seemingly a small detail as it takes place sporadically, it literally builds to a conclusion that helps set up the change in the second act. Details like this show just how well thought out this production is and how brilliantly well it is all executed.
The writing, adapted by Simon Stephens, is another highlight of this show. Told by Christopher's perspective, the action might stop to have Siobhan explaining things to him to help him understand, while Christopher's own narration of events is always mesmerising. Without spoiling anything, the end is one of the best things you will ever see in theatre and the best example of every genius element of this production - just make sure you don't leave your seat after the curtain call!
If theatre at its best is to help you escape your own world, Curious Incident is a prime example of this. Not only does it give you that escapism, it transports you into Christopher's world - allowing you to feel for him as a character and understand a world you perhaps were not too aware of previously. Beautiful storytelling, incredible staging and phenomenal acting from a flawless cast means this is one of the greatest plays you will see, potentially in your entire life. Words can't do this play justice - it really needs to be seen to be believed.
The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night-Time plays at the Troubadour theatre in Wembley Park until January 9th 2022 with a relaxed performance on Wednesday 5th January. It then heads on a UK tour until June 2022.
For all dates and tickets, see https://www.curiousonstage.com
Photos by Brinkhoff-Moegenburg