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London's National Theatre Production of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre
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London's National Theatre Production of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre

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The National Theatre Production of
The Curious Incident
of the Dog in the Night-Time

(Show Website)

A New Play by Simon Stephens
Based on the Novel by Mark Haddon

Starring Alex Sharp
Directed by Marianne Elliott

Ethel Barrymore Theatre
243 West 47th Street

Francesca Faridany, Ian Barford, Enid Graham
Helen Carey, Mercedes Herrero, Richard Hollis
Ben Horner, Jocelyn Bioh, David Manis, Keren Dukes
Stephanie Roth Haberle, Tom Patrick Stephens, Tim Wright

Scenic & Costume Design: Bunny Christie
Lighting Design: Paul Constable
Video Design: Finn Ross
Choreography: Scott Graham & Steven Hoggett
For Frantic Assembly
Music: Adrian Sutton
Sound Design: Ian Dickinson for Autograph
Hair and Wig Design: David Brian Brown
Casting: Daniel Swee, CSA
Cindy Tolan, CSA
NY Productions: Stephen Rebbeck
Ros Brooke-Taylor
Production Stage Manager: Kristen Harris
Production Management: Aurora Productions
Press Representative: Boneau/Bryan-Brown
General Management: Bespoke Theatricals

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 25, 2014

The National Theatre Production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, based on Mark Haddon’s 2003 novel, was disarmingly gripping. The stage has three walls to the rafters, all in glass grids, on which traffic directions, math formulas, and flashing lights draw the eye in. As the lights first brighten the stage, Alex Sharp, as the teenage Christopher Boone, who was apparently born with a form of autism, strokes a dead dog, Wellington, who was murdered with a pitchfork. A mystery opens, as to who would bring harm to this neighborhood pet. Christopher lives with his father, Ed (Ian Barford), in a town outside of London, as he’s told his mother, Judy (Enid Graham) is sick, then has died in the hospital. The exact location of Christopher’s mother, who’s alive and well and in London with another man, is a key element of the play’s poignant mystery. Autism, alienation, and the effect of divorce on children are all interwoven themes, not in a maudlin, depressing motif, but rather in a propulsive unfolding of events, told through the diary of Christopher, whose thoughts and wishes reveal values and feelings of virtue and honesty.

Francesca Faridany is Siobhan, Christopher’s dedicated teacher, who knowingly relates to her student’s frustrations. Tumultuous tantrums are handled with calmness and assurance. It’s Siobhan that encourages Christopher to take a highly advanced math exam, designed for students, years older. That exam, in England, commands reverence and respect. Barriers arise, choices are made, people change, and families are laid bare, in their frailties and desires. Christopher wants a home, like the one he remembers, but his parents have moved on, and he tries a reconstructed life with each, at least once. This is not a play written by an adult about a teen, but rather a play about a teen narrating to the audience an unadorned story about the adults in his life. He learns, toward the play’s end, that he can master his fate, if he only tries hard enough, in a conversation with Siobhan, but, his strongest desire, unspoken, but obvious, is left unresolved. As Siobhan, a key role in this production, Ms. Faridany comes across as a fine, supportive teacher, not too soft, and willing to exert tough love, when needed. As Judy, Enid Graham plays the conflicted, vulnerable mother, who made some bad choices in men, and acquires expansive patience and tolerance for Christopher, along the way. As Ed, Ian Barford plays the restless, vengeful husband and father with rough edges, worn down by life, but guarding his bonds with Christopher.

Mercedes Herrero is an effective Mrs. Shears, the neighbor, whose dog, Wellington, is the murder victim of the plot. Her initial blaming of Christopher as the perpetrator spurs Christopher’s motivation to solve the crime. Richard Hollis is Roger Shears, who develops a multitude of enemies throughout the evening. His steely gaze and wiry caginess embody the role’s personality to perfection. Helen Carey, persuasive as Mrs. Alexander, Christopher’s elderly neighbor, offers just the right cookies and just the right clues to help solve more than one of Christopher’s mysteries. Several actors have multiple roles, in an ensemble, positioning themselves to be leaned on, as chairs and walls. They carry boxes, chairs, and other small props back and forth, to illustrate the scene of the moment. In a spellbinding scene, Christopher needs to find his mother’s London address, and to travel by himself. He brings his pet rat, Toby, in an airy box, and rides trains and asks directions. We are drawn into the roaring and whistling of the train, surrounding subway rails, a police chase, and a street by street maze, with the incredible sound design by Ian Dickinson for Autograph, as well as Paule Constable’s lighting and Finn Ross’ video.

The grid-like design creates parallelograms and places, that exist in the mind. Bunny Christie’s scenery and costumes are quite complex, in their actual simplicity. Adrian Sutton’s music and the Graham-Hoggett choreography create an illusion of dance, when words and numbers become kinetic. And, speaking of illusion, the second act is essentially Christopher’s play, enacted from his own rewritten diary, but each sequence is so magical, that Christopher does the thinking for us. Simon Stephens has written this play, adapted from the Haddon novel. Marianne Elliott has directed for sensitivity, seamlessness, and surprise. Kudos to all.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at