Culture critic Ruth Horsburgh is left disappointed by Son of a Preacher Man, a new jukebox musical based on the songs of Dusty Springfield.Written by Ruth Horsburgh on 14th September 2017
Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time at the Hippodrome
Culture Editor Rebecca Moore reviews a 'visually and emotionally stunning' touring production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.
Five years on, 7 Olivier Awards and 5 Tony Awards later, people are still curious about the incident of the dog in the night-time. Ever since Simon Stephens adaptation of Mark Haddon’s Sherlock-esque detective story premiered at the National Theatre in 2012, it has been hard to miss those images of an electric blue box-set with lights flashing and a dog outlined in chalk on the floor. So, what is it, exactly, that makes this drama – which replaces sing-along-songs with droning and screeching and dance routines with physical theatre - so popular that it can sell out touring venues like the Hippodrome and attract audiences of all interests and ages?
“'A tale that quickly snowballs from the search for a dog-murderer into the need to discover independence, the value of honesty, and how to repair a broken family'
It’s all about the story – when protagonist Christopher Boone (Scott Reid), who has Asperger’s Syndrome, is discovered hovering around his neighbour’s dead dog, she suspects the worse, but protesting his innocence, Christopher sets out to solve the mystery. It is a whimsical setting for a tale that quickly snowballs from the search for a dog-murderer into the need to discover independence, the value of honesty, and how to repair a broken family. It is a captivating search for answers, both mathematical and familial, that allows us to step inside the mind of its protagonist, introducing us to his day-to-day difficulties, encouraging us to fall in love with his quirks, and insisting that we admire his bravery.
Lights and lines flit and spark across the stage like ideas and urges, demonstrating Christopher’s realisations and agitations. This front-on setup is extremely effective in making the audience feel like they are peering into the inner workings of Christopher’s mind, but it may have been just as effective, if not more so, to see the production as it was originally intended – without the spectacular surrounding screens, and in the round. But the decrease in intimacy that the touring stage proposes, is more than made up for in the detail of the writing. The audience will crack-up, well-up, and stare forward engrossingly during the silences, and that is because of the strong empathetic connection formed with Christopher throughout.
This closeness is, of course, aided by Scott Reid’s pleasingly powerful performance. His intonation, diction, and physicality is precise and frequently overwhelming - you can see the spit spurting from his mouth as he stresses each syllable and the sweat on his shirt as he scurries around. Christopher’s parents, Ed (David Michaels) and Judy (Emma Beattie), poignantly deliver a series of highly emotional scenes as they provide insight to their parental responsibilities, and Judy (Emma Beattie) provides the omnipresent soothing voice of a person who understands. The rest of the cast form a tight-knit ensemble often found in innovative new work produced at The National Theatre. They work collaboratively, weaving in and out of the action with transitions that move the piece along with an invigorating pace.
“'...visually and emotionally stunning...'
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time is a play about learning; Christopher learns how to navigate through life, he also learns from his teachers and his parents, he solves mathematical puzzles, builds train sets, and communicates with other people, but most importantly, in this play we learn about him. It is visually and emotionally stunning, and if you’re still curious then you must go to see it.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time will be performed at the Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday 8th July before moving on to other venues.