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Review: Curious Incident at Sunderland Empire

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Fabulous Insight

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night–Time
Sunderland Empire
Until 15th August 2015

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a rich theatrical experience. Occasionally a treat comes along in which the strong story is coupled to fabulous acting and great design. Through Marianne Elliott’s intelligent direction the action never stops.  This is a 24 carat experience.

The play by Simon Stephens is based upon the popular 2003 novel by Mark Haddon.  Christopher Boone (Joshua Jenkins) is a 15 year old boy, on the autistic spectrum, who lives with his Dad (Stuart Laing) in Swindon.  His Dad has told him that his Mother had died of a heart attack and he was more interested in which type of cardiac arrest rather than showing other emotions. He is extremely good at mathematics and wants to do his A level this year.

Photo by Brinkhoff/Moegenberg
The story begins with a murder of a neighbour’s dog. Christopher was found by the neighbour hugging the dead dog and so he is questioned by police. The poor handling of the lad by the police results in an attack on the policeman and ultimately his arrest.

Photo by Brinkhoff/Moegenberg
The play’s handling of this episode quickly establishes an emotional attachment for the audience with the lad.  It is hard to sit there and watch passively as the bad situation is quickly made worse. The set is incredible and enables the action to flow from garden to police station and back to home without stopping. Designer Bunny Christie is responsible for an amazing set with its random cupboards and boxes that double as toilets and wheelie trollies quickly as the story demands. Over the top of the set is an incredible lighting design, by Paule Constable, with its many screens on the floor and walls. The lighting always compliments the action. The chalk line on one surface being reproduced on another at the same time. Lighting has so rarely enabled the set to represent the changing of venues so effectively.

Photo by Brinkhoff/Moegenberg
The curious incident needed to be investigated so Christopher decided to turn detective. He is determined to ignore his Dad’s advice and he plans to find out who killed the dog. He also wants to know why his Mum died and he writes a book for school in which he describes his thinking.  Siobhan (Geraldine Alexander) is his mentor at school and is used as a narrator to link the action together seamlessly.

Photo by Brinkhoff/Moegenberg
The strong ensemble regularly pop up for brief moments as a diverse range of characters from ticket clerks to headteachers. They are able to create intense crowd scenes thanks to Adrian Sutton’s music and the work from Frantic Assembly’s Scott Graham and Steven Hogan.

Photo by Brinkhoff/Moegenberg
The show draws you in and is never boring. It changes the pace to keep the interest going. This was at its best in the moment when they speeded up the action to show how slow the neighbour moved. The play had its funny moments, cute moments, sad moments but stayed relentlessly engaging.

Photo by Brinkhoff/Moegenberg
The star of the show is Joshua Jenkins as the boy who cannot stand hugs. The clarity of his situation and the openness of his expression means the audience quickly care about him. Great support comes from Stuart Laing, Gina Issac and Geraldine Alexander as his Dad, Mum and school mentor. If the play helps explain part of the issues of life on the autistic spectrum then it has been both a force of good as well as entertaining.

Simply put, The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time is simply the best drama we have seen this year. Recommended without reservation!

This review was written by Stephen Oliver for the North East Theatre Guide from Jowheretogo PR ( Follow Jo on twitter @jowheretogo, Stephen @panic_c_button or like Jowheretogo on Facebook

Detail of autism family-friendly activities that are happening in conjunction with this show over the summer in venues around Sunderland: 

Tickets available in person at the Box Office on High Street West, the Ticket Centre on 0844 871 3022* or online at

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