Mark Haddon's cult novel makes a curiously good play

Aug 7, 2012

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is now a powerful, poignant play, say the critics

Manuel Harlan

What you need to know

Mark Haddon's award-winning and quirky 2003 novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, in which we see the world through the obdurate eyes of an autistic teenager, has been turned into a play.

Fifteen-year-old Christopher Boone, a maths genius with "behavioural problems", turns amateur detective when he sets out to discover the killer of his neighbour's poodle.

The play is directed by War Horse co-director Marianne Elliott and stars Luke Treadaway (who can also be seen in ITV1's upcoming Ruth Rendell thriller), Paul Ritter, Nicola Walker, Niamh Cusack and Una Stubbs.

The Curious Incident is currently showing at the National's Cottesloe Theatre. It will be broadcast in cinemas across the UK and worldwide on 6 September as part of National Theatre Live.

What the critics like

Can such an idiosyncratic novel - notable for its singular viewpoint - be turned into a play? Yes, says Laura Thompson in The Daily Telegraph. Playwright Simon Stephens's adaptation is "intensely, innately theatrical; it is also funny and extremely moving".

Stephens has used a fairly conventional plot structure but one that allows for "some truly stellar performances" to flourish and the book's legions of fans will love it, says Time Out's Andrzej Lukowski. Treadaway is "astonishing" as Christopher while Walker and Ritter are "exceptionally powerful and poignant" as his downtrodden parents.

Christopher's mathematical mind is "brilliantly reflected" in Bunnie Christie's set design of glowing geometric grids, says Michael Billington in The Guardian. Meanwhile the 'play within a play' plot sets up "a rich tension" between the teenager's imagination and "his obsession with facts, forensics and systemised data".

What they don't like

Marianne Elliott directs with "enormous flair" overall but she occasionally lapses into "touches of self-conscious cuteness", argues Billington. "I flinch from manipulative touches such as miniaturised trains and a live dog: two things calculated to send audiences into swooning raptures."

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