The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – The Flying Elephant Company & Limelight Theatrics

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – The Flying Elephant Company & Limelight Theatrics

The Flying Elephant Company and Limelight theatrics present a production of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” that is both a deceptively simple yet sublimely satisfying piece of theatre. Director Nick Fagan has his most evenly talented cast on stage throughout, moving as individuals or various groupings as required in and out of the action. In so doing they move or change the pattern of the dozen boxes that comprise the set. These are all the same in size and are painted white. They are like the individual components of a completed side of a Rubik’s cube waiting to be reassembled. A mathematical puzzle requiring attention. Likely this is no accident as the underlying theme of the play involves an obsession with and a passion for numbers.

Our focal point at all times is a 15 year old teen Christopher Boone, a special boy who attends a special school and who possesses special needs and skills. Christopher is on the cusp of taking an “A” level in mathematics. This is no mean feat for any student of any ability at the age of just 15. But, first of all, he has a mystery to solve. Who has brutally murdered Mrs Shears’ dog Wellington by means of a savage thrust of a garden fork? It is a reprehensible deed by any animal-loving reckoning and certainly one that causes Christopher significant upset. His emotions escalate when he is asked if he had been responsible for the animal’s death. Christopher decides to investigate the case and commences to do just that with his particular narrow range of communication skill but driven by his customary dogged forensic application to a task. What other secrets will he uncover in the small yet mighty distance he is destined to travel?

Nick Fagan places complete emphasis on Christopher’s story and it proves not only to be a curious one but is a very human as all good stories are wont to be. Michelle Nightingale, as teacher Siobhan from Chris’ Special School, narrates his written word. She is one of very few people in Christopher’s world that he trusts and feels safe with. Like the worthy educator she is, Siobhan has the experience and technique to find ways in and around her student’s special needs. Michelle’s performance conveys this balancing act with admirable perfect pitch. Her accurately accented voice, whilst having storytelling clarity, is also a soothing balm. We fully comprehend why Christopher would ask Siobhan if he might live at her house. Michelle’s performance is precise, personable and gently pragmatic, conveying Christopher’s need for truth.

Christopher’s father (Ed Boone) played by Brendan Cooney is a man at his wits end. He clearly shows signs of stress and behavioural desperation. There is little doubt he loves and cares for his son but the constant demand of parenting a child like Christopher has taken its toll. An under-current story of this play is as much about the parents of a special needs child as it is about the child in question. Brendan’s performance is utterly convincing in the context of an ordinary bloke who finds himself out of his depth dealing with very challenging circumstances. His range of emotion is deftly conveyed throughout as is the obvious sincerity in his quest for redemption. We can empathise with him and ultimately accept his spectrum of behaviours. Nicole Rutty as Christopher’s mother (Judy Boone) also projects an empathic character. She also reminds us that living with, indeed mothering, a constantly demanding and forever frustrating family member can cause relationships to fracture and snap. Nicole is most convincing in demonstrating her character’s feelings of guilt and ultimate contrition for abandoning her parental role. As a collective, the supporting cast members, each of whom plays several roles, are in perfect harmony with the mood, feelings and emotions that permeate the performance.

As the central character (Christopher Boone) in “The Curious Incident”, Benji Riggs delivers a singular performance. It is simply breathtaking! He never steps outside the boundaries of Christopher’s clearly defined world. He is utterly convincing in all the stage skills; voice, movement and his constant reaction to others and the world around him. His timing is impeccable. Benji inhabits the autistic Christopher with consummate ease.

This is an exceptionally fine production led by Nick Fagan. He, his inspired cast, together with all things technical that value add to the mood and atmosphere relate an intriguing story. It has a powerful beginning and a most satisfying conclusion. It all adds up to a memorable night at the theatre. Not to be missed!

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This production was reviewed by:

Alan Shepley
Alan Shepley
Whilst at University and Adelaide Teachers College he performed with Adelaide Uni Footlights, Therry and Theatre Guild before being appointed to country teaching positions. Over 35 years he was involved with school and/or community theatre productions in all facets of getting a show on stage at Pt. Augusta, Kadina , Balaklava and Pt. Pirie.

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