the curious incident of the dog in the night-time

Fan Reviews

(All reviews contain spoilers, so don’t read if you intend to go to the play and don’t want to know anything beforehand. 🙂 )

NT Live Performance review by Beatrice, posted on 28 October 2012

Virginie – Thank you for your lovely report. I love the photos! (Read Virginie’s Close Encounter report HERE.) Like Virginie, I am French-speaking but I live in the state of Virginia in the US. Although we are separated by distance and age, it is rather amazing that both of us have the same admiration for Nicola’s s incredible acting.

I marvel at Nicola’s universal appeal. I also got enthralled by Ruth Evershed when Spooks/MI5 first aired. The show is still shown twice a week on TV stations in my area. From the moment Ruth dropped her files in the conference room and Harry awkwardly introduced his new intelligence officer to the rest of the team, I fell for Nicola as Ruth and was hooked by the whole Harry and Ruth relationship. As a woman and a hopeless romantic, I was just fascinated by Ruth. I must add that I have never felt such a fascination for any other actor in my whole life and I am no spring chicken!

On October 28, I watched the NT live performance at the Shakespeare Theater Company in Washington, DC with a mostly mature audience. Somehow, there seemed to be far fewer young people here than in London. I was concerned that my American husband would not follow the story, because it might be hard for him to understand British English. Luckily that was not an issue for him and he enjoyed the amazing staging.

My review of the play is very much influenced by my background. Let me explain. One of my sons was adopted from a Zagreb orphanage at the age of 3½ and at the time, he suffered from multiple behavioural and mental problems as a result of the years of neglect he had to go through at the orphanage. For a number of years, he had to be placed in specialized schools, psychiatric institutions and hospitals. During his stays in those various settings, I had to go to mandatory parents’ meetings and met many parents of the autistic children who shared a classroom with him.

It was only when I started to sub and volunteer in classes with autistic children that I realized how truly exhausting it was for their parents to cope 24/7. Not only parents, but also dedicated teachers have to deal with their often violent and unusual outbursts caused by stress. It is not uncommon for autistic children to get fixated on certain objects, make repetitive movements and strange sounds. To survive, parents develop a keen sense of the absurd. Parents are often cut off from their families and their friends who do not understand why special needs children act in such a different way. It saddens me that the children themselves have very few friends and are isolated from their peers. On the positive side, contrary to popular belief, children with Aspergers or with nonverbal autism can and do express love for their parents and their teachers. They are also unable to lie.

Coming from this background, I found Luke Treadaway’s performance as Christopher just incredible. Surprisingly, I liked him most when he started to be overwhelmed by events and made odd sounds and movements. He became the autistic child I have witnessed so many times in classrooms. I was so impressed by his memorization of mathematical and scientific facts. I can understand why the violence in the play might disturb some spectators. It was hard for me to watch it, because I know it is too real at home and in class for many special needs children. Niamh Cusack as Siohban, the caring teacher, highlights the dedication of many special ed teachers to their students. I loved also her practical advice to Christopher so that he could cope with real life.

What can I say about Christopher’s parents? Paul Ritter as Christopher’s dad portrays so well his frustration and his clumsy love for his son. I can’t blame him if he is pushed over the edge by his son’s inability to conform to social norms. His “Look at me in the eyes when I am talking to you” is a sentence I have heard many times in school. Nicola as Judy the mom deeply touched me when she described shopping with a young Christopher in a store and trying inadequately to deal with one of his meltdowns. I loved also her reference to the gift of a train set to Christopher and the joy it brought to him and his parents. Nicola expressed so well the pain of a mother who loved her son but left him because she could no longer cope with his tantrums and his unusual personality. You felt Nicola’s terrible anguish when she explained to Christopher the reason for her abandonment of her child and her marriage. Both parents were so moving when they put their palms against Christopher’s palm to show him their love, since he was unable to look at them and be hugged by them. Watching Nicola play a role which reflects certain aspects of my real life experiences makes me appreciate her acting skills so much more, because more than once, I had a lump in my throat watching her go through emotions which I am all too familiar with. I just wish there were most close-up shots of Nicola.

I found the staging wonderful and very creative. I loved the beach moment when Nicola was flipped over by the actors into the sea; I was in awe of the sight of Christopher looking at the stars; and was speechless at the representation of the train’s and tube’s scenes. I wish I could watch the play several times like some Nicola’s fans did. There are so many stage details to enjoy.

The greatest laugh of the play was not scripted in the NT live performance. When the audience learnt that the name of the cute puppy was “Sandy”, everybody burst out laughing. “Sandy” is, unfortunately, the name of the huge hurricane/winter storm that is threatening the east coast of the United States today with flooding and extensive power outages in the next few days. I thought they were going to cancel the showing of this play as a NT Live Event because the power might be cut in Washington DC. I was glad that they went ahead with the screening. There is no public transportation in the whole area today. At least we are not being evacuated like in NY.

The play captures the challenges and unexpected joy of living with a child who is different. At first, my husband was concerned by the depressing topic, but soon we laughed at the many funny and lighthearted moments. The audience clapped at the intermission and then again at the end of the play. Everybody, even the old folks, seemed to have enjoyed the play very much. I highly recommend The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. I am happy that it is transferred to the West End next March. I hope that the NT will keep the same fabulous cast.

Read the Book

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There is a special edition of the book to accompany the National Theatre’s production of this play.

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