Theatre Reviews

Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by National Theatre

the curious incident

Rating: ★★★★★ (5 stars)

Play: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Author: Mark Haddon

Playwright: Simon Stephens

Director: Marianne Elliot

Company: National Theatre

Genre: Drama

Venue: King’s Theatre Glasgow

Performance Date: 17 Aug. 2017

Summary: “Christopher, fifteen years old, stands beside Mrs Shears’ dead dog. It has been speared with a garden fork, it is seven minutes after midnight and Christopher is under suspicion. He records each fact in the book he is writing to solve the mystery of who murdered Wellington. He has an extraordinary brain, exceptional at maths while ill-equipped to interpret everyday life. He has never ventured alone beyond the end of his road, he detests being touched and he distrusts strangers. But his detective work, forbidden by his father, takes him on a frightening journey that upturns his world.” (Source: curiousonstage.com)

Content Warnings: strong language, “dead dog” prop, domestic abuse, use of a knife.


My thoughts

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a truly stellar play. Its plot and protagonist, Christopher Boone played by Scott Reid, are equally unrelenting which made the play so engrossing. At first, I was a bit dubious about the casting choice of Scott Reid in such a young role (Christopher is fifteen years old), but once the first act commenced, I could see why he was chosen. From the beginning, Reid is invested in his role both vocally and physically; a lot of effort and thought was put in for the characterisation of Christopher. On a side note, Frantic Assembly (a physical theatre company) had input on Marianne Elliot’s production, which I think is what made the play so engaging – the audience could step into Christopher’s mind through the physicality of the ensemble.

 

scott reid as christopher
Scott Reid (Christopher Boone) and ensemble

The main theme of the play is Christopher’s autism, he has Asperger’s Syndrome. Simon Stephens, the playwright of the book adaptation, treats the condition with sensitivity, exploring how Christopher’s father copes. David Michaels portrays Ed Boone authentically, trying to understand his son’s world and thoughts.

In addition, Lucianne McEvoy who plays Christopher’s teacher is a great presence onstage as she encourages Christopher’s interests and becomes the voice of reason when the world becomes too much for Christopher. Elliot’s choice to have Siobhan on stage during certain moments was meaningful as she is possibly the most supportive person in Christopher’s life.

On a side note, I was mildly concerned about Toby who was portrayed by an ACTUAL rat (there were two rats’ names listed in the programme: Dumbo and Meeko – how cute!) on stage. There was one part of the play where Toby’s cage gets thrown around, but according to the programme “no animals were harmed in the making of this production”, so I hope that is the case.

Why did I attend this play?

I read Mark Haddon’s book years ago and its style was quite unusual, so when I heard that it was touring the UK, I knew I had to see it.

Would I attend another National Theatre production?

Yes, I would. I’ve seen three National Theatre productions this year so far, and I look forward to seeing many more!

Overall…

Simon Stephens’ play is true to Mark Haddon’s fantastic novel. I think this play will continue for many years to come.

– Melissa Jennings


Have you seen The Curious Incident?

What were your thoughts? Let me know!

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Theatre Reviews

Review: Penetrator by Fear No Colours

penetrator
Tom White (left) as Tadge and Chris Duffy (right) as Max

Rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)

Play: Penetrator

Playwright: Anthony Neilson

Director: Julia Midtgard

Company: Fear No Colours

Genre: Thriller

Venue: C-cubed, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Performance Date: 10 Aug. 2017

Summary: “Flatmates Max and Alan are happily nursing their hangovers when their old friend Tadge arrives on their door, AWOL from the army and just in time to upset the delicate balance of chill nothings. Something happened to him in the Black Room, where the Penetrators are, something too terrible to speak of. So it must be shown.” (Source: fearnocolours.com)

Content Warnings: simulated sex, masturbation, explicit language, violence, descriptions of rape.


My thoughts

Penetrator is not for the light-hearted and neither was the Fear No Colours’ production. The play literally opens in darkness and gradually, reality begins to blur for the three characters. The shift in atmosphere commences with the entrance of Tadge, portrayed by Tom White, who is evidently disturbed by a series of events. White’s restless character was intriguing to watch, even when he was not speaking. You could see the cogs turning in Tadge’s mind which reflected on his face. Despite seeing his face, White’s character was unpredictable, which made his performance intense and thoroughly captivating.

The shift in atmosphere commences with the entrance of Tadge, portrayed by Tom White, who is evidently disturbed by a series of events. White’s restless character was intriguing to watch, even when he was not speaking. You could see the cogs turning in Tadge’s mind which reflected on his face. Despite seeing his face, White’s character was unpredictable, which made his performance intense and thoroughly captivating.

Unlike Tadge, Max hides a lot behind his dark humour and seemingly apathetic attitude. At the start of the play, Max comes across lazy, much to the annoyance of his flatmate, Alan. Some of Max’s misogynistic and abhorrent beliefs were delivered with acidic truth by Chris Duffy.  The final scenes of Penetrator are where Duffy shines, or rather, where Max is at his darkest.

However, Matt Roberts’ performance was the weakest of the three. I felt that Roberts’ expressions were annoyingly exaggerated throughout the play, in particular during the eye contact with Tadge. In general, I think the whole cast needs to project and articulate much more as some of the lines/impersonations were lost amongst mumbling, shouting, and laughter.

Why did I attend this play?

In-Yer-Face plays are not often performed due to their explicit and uncomfortable content, so it was a must.

Would I attend another Fear No Colours production?

The company regularly tackles difficult issues, so absolutely, I like being challenged.

Overall…

If you enjoy challenging, visceral theatre, then this is for you. The play is being extended at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe according to the Fear No Colour’s Twitter, so make sure to follow them to keep updated.

– Melissa Jennings


What challenging plays have you seen at the Fringe?

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