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Review: A Curious Incident at Belfast's Grand Opera House - simply brilliant

By Jackie Bell

Many readers of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time have wondered how the critically acclaimed novel could be transferred to the stage - and the answer is simply, quite brilliantly.

The Olivier and Tony award winning stage adaptation of Mark Haddon’s novel is running at the Grand Opera House in Belfast this week, bringing audiences into the extraordinary but troubled mind of Christopher Boone.

The plays opens within a massive black and white grid covering all three walls of the stage, while the body of Wellington the dog lies in the middle of the set impaled with the pitch fork that led to his demise.

It is Christopher who stumbles across the animal and he is immediately upset to find the beloved pet of his neighbour, Mrs Shears, has met his end.

Unfortunately Christopher is in the wrong place at the wrong time as a policeman arrives to question the 15-year-old about the dead animal and when trying to calm the boy he touches his arm - Christopher does not like to be touched.

It's here that the vast set bursts into life as flashing lights and distressing sound effects offer insight into Christopher's mind and inability to navigate human interaction.

This is the realisation for the audience that the set-piece will provide as much character exposition for Christopher as actor Scott Reid.

The story then follows Christopher and his determination to solve the mystery of who killed Wellington, recalling dates and times and the whereabouts of his neighbours when the crime took place - everyone is a suspect.

The play cleverly uses Christopher's teacher Siobhan (Lucianne McEvoy) as the narrator of his investigation, which allows for a clear timeline and easy transition of events that can become quite quick-paced at various moments throughout the show.

Siobhan is also used in moments when Christopher is feeling particularly isolated or upset and she is the character that helps keep the action-heavy sequences flowing and relatable for the audience.

Meanwhile, the use of the ensemble cast is both technically and visually genius.

The actors take on roles as varied as a beer-swilling neighbour, a stressed train commuter, a door mat and a means of space travel for Toby the rat - Christopher's pet and best friend.

The cast offer both dramatic and engaging performances as well as flawless choreography in helping Christopher tell his story - this is best showcased in the London Underground sequence where Christopher is painfully out of his comfort zone.

It is here when the cast and the set work best to demonstrate how excruciating it can be for Christopher to negotiate everyday life, often leaving the audience struggling to catch their breath.

But it is the relationships our protagonist has with those around him that give The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time its biggest punch.

Christopher's father Ed (David Michaels) is a man who can sometimes struggle with his son's Asperger's syndrome, but will no less fight for him, as any parent would, when it comes to the things that matter - like Christopher's A-Level maths exam.

And it is when Christopher is talking frankly about the way he sees the world, whether that be with Siobhan or a stranger, that the play has its comical moments and there are plenty for the audience to enjoy.

Just like the character of Christopher, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a play that is clever, methodical and endearing.

Many of the sequences leaves the audiences awe-struck in their simplicity but surprised by their execution and emotional impact. Fans of the novel will be delighted, newcomers will be amazed.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time runs at the Grand Opera House until Saturday, April 22.

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