The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time at the Liverpool Empire Review

Reviewed by Jan Mellor

I must be one of the only people in the country who has not read this book or studied it at school/university and know very little about it except that it is about a boy, a dead dog and being autistic. My friend (who has Asperger’s) has been desperate to see it live on stage after studying the book at work (she is a school librarian), she was in awe on entering the packed theatre with the stage set up as an electric-boarded box. She was very excited, ”I really don’t know how they are going to transfer this book to stage!” she stated as she observed the stage set up as a circuited box with the form of a purple dead dog lying on the stage floor with a garden fork in it.

The scene opens with a teenage boy, Christopher, finding the dog, with load noises and flashing lights demonstrating his fear and anxiety. Immediately with the story being narrated (as Christopher) at the side of the stage and the limited set of 10 boxes and 6 cast members transferring to a wide range of objects – the set-up of this show was no doubt going to be unique.

The technology on the stage – what Christopher wrote on the stage floor was transported onto the back of the stage – was a very clever image and had the audience gasping.

The teenager, totally absorbed by the crime of the murdered dog, is in a state of trauma, and the aggressive behaviour of the authorities, the dog owner (Mrs. Shears) and his angry father send him into an overdrive of panic. The depiction of Christopher’s lack of understanding of metaphors (taking them all literally), his inability to demonstrate emotion and his total lack of awareness summed up the anxieties of a person with Asperger’s in a clear and empathetic way. Injecting the scenes with great choreography, imaginative ways of utilising the sparse props, interactive board, humour and the narrator depiction as to how Christopher was experiencing the world around him brought the audience through on an intense journey seeing Christopher’s angst of his mother’s death and affair, his tempestuous relationship with his father and his bravery as he runs away from home and faces (what to him is a complete nightmare) of travelling alone to London.

The innovative way of how two scenes dovetailed on stage with great improvisation from the cast had the 2.5 hours of the performance float by in what felt like minutes. The story continues, sharing with us as observers, the frustrations that accompany working with a young person who sees the world in a different way. The stage set up was amazing, the characters believable and the choreography stunning. I do not want to share with you the story as really want you to go and see this performance and gain an insight into the world of Asperger’s syndrome who -as all people – have a variety of characteristics (my friend wanted to state “beware of the stereo-type: we are not all maths geniuses!”) and I think that even if you have read this totally absorbing  book – the transfer of this intense story to stage is awesome and depicts the world of this teenager in an imaginative and wonderful way.

The characters are played with amazing skill – outstanding with Christopher played awesomely by Scott Reid.

One not to be missed! A great insight into a unique world shown in a dramatic and memorable way.

Rating: 5/5

Tickets cost from £13 to £41.90 (plus £2.85 transaction fee).

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time is at the Liverpool Empire from 25-29 July 2017, for more information or to book tickets visit www.atgtickets.com/liverpool or call the box office on 0844 8713017.

Liverpool Empire Theatre, Lime Street, Liverpool, Merseyside, L1 1JE | 0844 8713017

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