One of the magical things about theatre is how it can immerse you in a story, allowing you to see things from both the protagonist’s point of view and the world around them. This is the seed of magic present in Simon Stephens’ The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. The play, based on the novel by Mark Haddon, has its Canadian premiere at Citadel Theatre in Edmonton, and this seed of magic makes it a compelling production.
The story tells of Christopher Boone (Edmund Stapleton) a 15-year teenager who describes himself as having behavioural difficulties. He gets easily overwhelmed by the expectations of the world on him, he will not be touched physically, and he is extremely intelligent in mathematics. Christopher lives with his dad Ed Boone (David Keeley) in Swindon, Wiltshire where an incident takes place. Mrs. Shears’s (Stephanie Wolfe) dog Wellington was killed by a garden fork. Christopher really liked the dog and decides he is going to investigate and this leads him on a grand adventure, where he meets his neighbour Mrs. Alexander (Terri Cherniack) who tries to be his friend and help him out, but Christopher has to make some very big decisions.
The story is told by Christopher as he wrote a book based on what happened in his life. The characters include his mentor Siobhan (Cherissa Richards), his mother Judy Boone (Patricia Zentilli), Mr. Shears (John Ully Yatt), and Reverend Peterson (Robb Paterson), who all play roles in his story.
The play is told with a sense of wonder, that illustrates the depth of Christopher’s imagination and his attention to detail. The set is moved along the stage, tables transforming to make trains and train stations. Joel Adria’s projection design allows the story to be told through visuals and this, combined with T. Erin Gruber’s lighting design and Elijah Lindenberger’s sound design, the story comes to life. Linda Garneau’s movement design has the cast moving in and around Christopher holding lamps and putting on jackets to have the narrative unfold.
Director Heidi Malazdrewich has the play move along at a steady pace and adapts the story nicely to the space at Citadel Theatre. It is a challenge for all of the audience to see the projection design on the stage floor, especially when Christopher is drawing things out. Malazdrewich has also dialed down the more violent aspects of the play, and this makes the telling less poignant than it could be as the contrast between what is going on in Christopher’s world versus what is going on around him isn’t as drawn out.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is an immersive story told in an intricate way, with the world surrounding Christopher, a world he finds confusing, playing out on stage alongside Christopher’s world. This contrast creates empathy within the audience towards Christopher, and for that alone, this story is worth seeing.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time plays at Citadel Theatre until October 9th in Edmonton. More information is available online.
Photo Credit: ©2016, David Cooper Photography.