Nu­anced por­trayal of a young out­sider

Sunday Herald Life - - THEATRE REVIEW - Re­viewed by Mark Brown

SI­MON Stephens’s play The Cu­ri­ous In­ci­dent Of The Dog In The Night-time, based upon the best-sell­ing novel by Mark Had­don, has, in a lit­tle over four years, be­come a huge in­ter­na­tional suc­cess.

As shown by the sell-out crowd for Wed­nes­day’s per­for­mance in Ed­in­burgh – part of a UK tour that takes in Aberdeen and Glas­gow later in the year – the show has the virtue of at­tract­ing large num­bers of young peo­ple to the the­atre.

It isn’t dif­fi­cult to see the at­trac­tion of the Na­tional The­atre’s pro­duc­tion for ado­les­cents and late-teenagers, in par­tic­u­lar. The chief pro­tag­o­nist, Christo­pher Boone, is a bril­liant math­e­ma­ti­cian in his mid-teens who suf­fers from a be­havioural dis­or­der. He has been plunged into pro­found con­fu­sion and anx­i­ety by the seem­ing death of his mother and the bru­tal killing of his neigh­bour’s dog.

Much has been made of Christo­pher (who has a pro­nounced ca­pac­ity with num­bers, a dis­trust of fic­tion and a dis­like of be­ing touched) seem­ing to suf­fer from an autism spec­trum dis­or­der (ASD). This, de­spite Had­don’s in­sis­tence that he is no ex­pert on ASD and that he wrote the char­ac­ter more broadly as a metaphor for the many young peo­ple who feel them­selves to be square pegs who do not fit into the round holes so­ci­ety seems to have al­lo­cated to them.

This makes the cast­ing of the lead role ab­so­lutely cru­cial. Di­rec­tor (and cre­ator of the orig­i­nal 2012 pro­duc­tion) Mar­i­anne El­liot has been for­tu­nate to se­cure the ser­vices of ex­cel­lent young Scot­tish ac­tor Scott Reid, who shares the part with his English coun­ter­part Sam New­ton on this ex­ten­sive tour.

Reid, a grad­u­ate of the Royal Con­ser­va­toire of Scot­land, is best known for his hi­lar­i­ous play­ing of Methadone Mick, the lat­est ad­di­tion to the cast of TV com­edy Still Game. How­ever, as any­one who has fol­lowed his stage ca­reer will tes­tify, he is a tremen­dously ac­com­plished ac­tor with an im­pres­sive emo­tional and psy­cho­log­i­cal range.

Reid brings that range to bear in ev­ery as­pect of this por­trayal. Whether it is the Wilt­shire teenager’s ob­ses­sive, some­times comic de­tec­tive work over the mur­der of the dog or his ter­ri­ble dis­ori­en­ta­tion when he ar­rives in Lon­don, the ac­tor’s clever, nu­anced play­ing em­bod­ies Christo­pher in all his fear, an­guish, be­wil­der­ment, in­no­cence and in­tel­li­gence.

El­liot’s pro­duc­tion it­self is slick and hand­some, thanks in no small part to the pro­jec­tion of smart graph­ics onto a set that is in­spired by the cen­tral char­ac­ter’s pen­chant for math­e­mat­ics. The sup­port­ing cast, which in­cludes the su­perb Lu­cianne McEvoy as Christo­pher’s adored school men­tor Siob­han, also im­presses.

How­ever, one can’t help but feel that there is a cer­tain amount of hy­per­bole in the rave re­views for this pro­duc­tion, led by the crit­ics in Lon­don and New York. There is an el­e­ment of bells and whis­tles about this stag­ing, which grates against the power of Had­don’s nar­ra­tive and the sub­tleties of Stephens’ script.

The choreography of Fran­tic Assem­bly’s Steven Hoggett tends to be overly lit­eral and at times de­scends into an in­ad­ver­tent par­ody of the mime of Mar­cel Marceau. The elec­tronic stage ef­fects also be­come more self-con­sciously “spec­tac­u­lar” in the sec­ond half than the story re­quires. Ul­ti­mately, it is Had­don and Stephens’s por­trait of Christo­pher, and the rendering of him by Reid, rather than the ef­fects, that ac­count for the suc­cess of this play. For tour de­tails, visit: www.cu­ri­ouson­stage.com/tour

Pho­to­graph: Brinkhoff/Moe­gen­burg

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