The Curious incident has become a well-known story not only on the theatre circuit but back to its’ origin of reading circles. As a kid I read the book and fell in love with it, perhaps not understanding some content until today.
The Story of Christopher – a boy with autism whose family has been hit with different upsetting events, and how his life changes with the death of a local pet dog, we see his life from school, to family, to how he copes with the outside world.
It is astonishing that the National Theatre were brave enough to take on such a story – autism being a prevalent disability in our society, the risk of taking on this story in a gentle and respectful way was not only courageous of them but so right to do, to show the difficulty that people with this disability undertake on a daily basis.
The set itself designed by Bunny Christie was beautiful. Reminiscent of The Nether that I saw the other week, there was a sense of futuristic and interchangeable worlds with the use of a grid like box created by projections. The scenes changed, the technology used throughout seemed simple but were so mesmerising, and the performers were evidently well talented to take this within their stride. Simple props were used but used well to create a sense of chaos up to the end of the first half and the second half using larger stage changes for more impact compared to the minimalist scenes.
The main actor playing Christopher, Graham Butler was beyond words. Being able to bring a realistic and not taboo-comical take on someone with a disability can be hard to do and was done so well and, as said previously, with a lot of respect. He was able to bring a tear to the eye of the audience with his character’s contrast to those around him, with how hard he finds situations and events. The struggles and viewpoint of the situation were shown well and really struck a chord. The fellow performers and their more naturalistic roles took this in their stride as well, some doubling up at times and creatively being able to interchange with these, at times letting us forget that they were the same person. As a collective, there was a sense that the intricate nature of the performance needed them to be synced and supportive of one another – the use of physical theatre was in abundance and at times the need to lift and support performers horizontally against walls, flipping effortlessly and smoothly over into different directions was beautiful and well executed; a feat only possible with such a strong cast.
An usual take on this production was the use of live animals. My knowledge of laws around this within the theatre world is naive and so shocked and confused me slightly. It was evident that, while still in character, the performers and stage hands were very careful and gentle with the animals during their very short period on stage. As an animal lover, this again struck a chord with me, helping the tears of emotion from the production flow more freely with happiness and with the beautiful and gentle interaction. The brave nature of using these in a live and continuous performance was also brave but knowing their take on the subject, it was known how well they were treated.
Curious Incident exceeded expectations. So perfectly executed, it is hard to come away without feeling any emotion and awe for the production. It is certainly a show that could be seen countless times without boredom ensuing and something that must be a bucket list tick for everyone.
Link to a short documentary on the set design of the production