The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time ticks all those boxes this year with a (sold out run) for Simon Stephens’ stage adaptation of Mark Haddon’s superb novel.
“I’m going to find out who killed Wellington.”
There’s a darkness in some of the scenes after the interval that is carefully balanced with moments of comedy.
As someone who went to the theatre as a child and spent most of the time looking at the lights, the look of the show is extraordinary. Spotlights normally throw rounded shapes onto a stage. The Curious Incident pulls off crisp right angled corners that are perfectly positioned on the black box graph-paper stage through the use of projectors pointing down from the roof that are aligned perfectly with the set.
Projectors are overused in modern theatre. There’s barely a play staged in Belfast that doesn’t have one or more projectors bouncing imagery off the scenery to augment the set. But Curious Incident gets a wild card and shows what can be achieved with a relatively simple-looking boxed in set and the mind of a Christopher. The white outline of rooms, houses and even railway carriages are created in an instant and then wiped away.
One small niggle: any maths student will tell you the teacher docks marks if you don't draw the axes on top of the thick major gridlines on the graph paper. Maths savant Christopher would know that too. Somehow the set designer didn’t manage to follow that rule and has the axes plotted midway through the squares.
The breaking of the fourth wall to tell the audience that we were watching a play written by Christopher – a play within a play – jarred with the immersive theatre up to that point. However, the postponed mathematical explanation was worth the wait and as someone who was a bit of a maths geek and spent many an hour reading mathematical dictionaries as a child, it was quite emotional to hear Christopher so clearly and completely lecturing the departing audience about a topic close to his heart.
There’s just one seat left in the Circle [E19] for Saturday evening’s performance in the Grand Opera House. The touring version of Curious Incident is nearly at the end of its run. If you have the chance to see the play in London or New York, grasp the opportunity. It’s a fresh and novel staging whose technically brilliance is not let down by the quality of the 14 energetic cast members.
*On-stage peeing – or pretend peeing – is also a new meme for Belfast theatre, with the next performance expected during Mydidae later in the Belfast Festival.