There was a time in 2003 and 2004 in which everyone you knew was reading Mark Haddon’s book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time or telling you to read it. It won awards, was published in editions for children and adults and was found to be one of the top 5 happy endings in novels, along with Pride and Prejudice and To Kill a Mockingbird.
It was turned into a succesful stage play in 2012, transferred to the West End in 2013 (winning 7 Olivier Awards including Best New Play) and is currently pleasing audiences in New York, London and around the UK. BritMums was invited to attend at the Gielgud Theatre on Shaftsbury Avenue, London. We took along an enthusiastic 11-year-old to experience the production and test its family-friendliness. Read on for our Mum v. Child review.
The Mum’s View, from BritMums co-founder Jennifer:
The story, as we know from the book, is instantly engaging. It opens with 15-year-old Christopher discovering the neighbour’s dog Wellington dead, speared by a garden fork. Christopher has Autism spectrum disorder — although it’s never discussed that specifically in the play — and the story unfolds as Christopher tries to discover who killed Wellington. Along the way, he meets people, interacts with others like his father and teacher, and uncovers an even bigger mystery.
The stage looks like it’s covered in graph paper, with projections, a train track built by Christopher as the play progresses, and brilliant sound design. It’s all a setting for the activity as well as a representation of Christopher’s state of mind.
The other actors portray characters as well as objects, and choreography makes the story even more dynamic. At one point, actors support Christopher as he walks on the walls of the set from one side of the stage to the other.
As a parent, I liked the empathy as well as complexity the play highlights, and the way Christopher’s gifts are as important as his limitations. There is a fair amount of swearing from the very start, so beware of taking any child who would be scandalised (or who is likely to pick it up).
Verdict: Good for mature 11-year-olds and up and an enriching family outing to the theatre that doesn’t rely on singing and dancing.
The Kid’s View, from an 11-year-old
I enjoyed this play very much, especially how they linked all the problems together, with the teacher reading the book of the story which was from Christopher’s point of view. [Ed’s note: Christopher’s journal about what happens to him serves as a structure for the play.] This confusing but interesting play definitely changed the way I thought about things.
The lighting played a big part in the play as the setting was meant to be the image of Christopher’s brain. You might think this would be a quite serious play and indeed it was, but it was also surprisingly funny.
They had 10 or so actors but everyone was used a fair amount. There were a lot of lifts and spins and there was always something to see onstage with the actors. It really grabbed me and, I think, the rest of the audience.
Verdict: The best part of it was where Christopher discovers letters his father has hidden. I think it would be good for ages 12 and up. The swearing is what you’d hear in movies. It was ok for me because I’m a mature 11-year-old [Ed’s note: said while rolling eyes].
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time runs through February 2016 at the Gielgud Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1D 6AR. Performances are Monday to Saturday at 7.30pm, additional performances Thursday and Saturday at 2.30pm, along with special Christmas performances.
Ticket prices: £15 – £59.50, plus concessions. An allocation of 100 £15 Day Seats are available for every performance from the Gielgud Theatre box office from 10am.
National Theatre Box Office, No booking fee, 020 7452 3000 www.nationaltheatre.org.uk
Gielgud Theatre Box Office, No booking fee, 0844 482 5130 www.delfontmackintosh.co.uk