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REVIEW: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Review by Markus Hamence. Performance date: Sunday 7 April 2024, Goodwood Theatre, SA

Stepping into the Goodwood Theatre to see ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ is like embarking on a journey through a complex and brilliantly mapped-out mind. Adapted from Mark Haddon’s best-selling novel, the play is a sensory and emotional rollercoaster that captures the audience’s heart from the get-go.

A Unique Perspective Brought to Life

At the centre of this theatrical wonder is Christopher Boone, a 15-year-old boy who describes himself as “a mathematician with some behavioral difficulties.” Diagnosed with an autism spectrum condition, Christopher embarks on a detective mission to solve the mysterious death of a neighbourhood dog. But, as often is the case in stories rich with intrigue and human complexity, the dog’s death is just the beginning of a journey that spirals into an examination of Christopher’s entire world.

Next to Peter Goers, one of my favourite Adelaide directors is Nick Fagan. What Nick does with this adaptation of the play is clean, sharp and polished in delivery. Nick knows his job and executes his craft with rounded knowledge, it is very evident in this piece of theatre. The anticipation of a Nick Fagan show (not unlike a Peter Goers’) thrills me. This play does not disappoint and possibly puts a notch in his belt more prominent than his previous.

The play’s depiction of Christopher’s perspective is nothing short of revolutionary. Through innovative stagecraft, the production uses visual effects, sound, and choreography to immerse us into the protagonist’s mind. Lights (Richard Parkhill) flicker and flash to display his sensory overload, and the stage becomes a giant graph as he navigates his way around his neighborhood and later, the bustling chaos of London.

Emotional Depth and Stellar Performances

The emotional depth of the play is palpable. As someone who cherishes deeply the introspective dives in storytelling, I found the play’s handling of relationships, especially between Christopher and his parents, to be profoundly moving. The characters are carved with nuance, making them relatable and their struggles palpably real. The actors, without a doubt, bring their A-game, delivering performances that are both powerful and touching. The role of Christopher played by Benji Riggs is particularly demanding, as it requires not only significant emotional range but also a physicality that is constantly engaging. It’s a role that, when done right, can be incredibly impactful. Benji stunned me with what could only be described as a master-craft in acting and performance. I was gobsmacked by his abilities in taking on this character. Extraordinary – Bravo.

Michelle Nightingale as Siobhan and essentially the story teller has a presence on stage that is unique, she has a quality that shines and instantly is easy to engage with. Her talent is confident and assured.

Ed Boon played by Brendan Cooney was another tough role, his struggles were real and delivered with a style that we could connect with as he showed us authentically.

Nicole Rutty as his mother, Claire Keene, Gavin Cianci, Alexander Woollatt, Jack Robbins, Jessica Corrie, and Jean Walker are ALL exemplary. A strong and well chosen cast. Each having demanding and commanding moments that lifted and highlighted various parts of the interesting, tangled and winding story.

A Visual and Auditory Feast

The stage design deserves a standing ovation on its own. It’s a pared back wonderland that fluidly shifts from scene to scene, complementing the play’s dynamic narrative. The use of boxes (coupling as seats for the actors while awaiting their moment and storage for various props required to carry out a scene) not only enhances the storytelling but also plunges the audience directly into Christopher’s methodical way of processing his surroundings. Sound design (Dave Simms) is equally compelling, creating an auditory environment that aligns perfectly with the visual cues to either soothe or jar the senses as needed.

Conclusion: A Must-See Production

‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ is an experience in adaptive storytelling and innovative stage production. It is a profound exploration of difference, love, and resilience. For those who are yet to experience it, this play promises not just a night of entertainment but a profound emotional and intellectual engagement. Whether you’re a lover of meticulous set design, stellar acting, or storytelling that moves and challenges, this play is a must-see. As the curtain falls (figuratively), you’re left not only applauding the brilliance on display but also pondering the deeper narratives woven into the fabric of the show. What a delightful, intriguing journey it is indeed!

Side note: The ‘encore’ is an experience all on it’s own which, again, shows the insane capabilities of the acting prowess of Adelaide’s own divine talents of Benji Riggs.

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time
Presented by The Flying Elephant Company & Limelight Theatrics
5-13 April 2024
Goodwood Theatre

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