Review: Talented cast deliver humour and heartbreak

By Paul Simei-Barton

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Photo / Supplied
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Photo / Supplied

The murder mystery genre is given an intriguing twist as Simon Stephens' adaptation of Mark Haddon's acclaimed novel draws us into an entirely different way of seeing the world.

The story's 15-year-old detective suffers from acute Asperger's syndrome and his weirdly distorted perspective on life proves to be deeply revealing. With a chronic inability to lie, he exposes the hypocrisy and absurdity of everyday life and his wildly discursive intelligence, like a pop-up Wikipedia, supplies an endless stream of fun-facts along with poetic reflections on the structure of the universe.

Tim Earl's superb performance captures the profound strangeness of Asperger's while also expressing the pathos of a boy's inability to process emotion. The daily struggle of his parents is movingly conveyed by Wesley Dowdell and Hera Dunleavy who courageously continue to love their son even as they are painfully aware of their own inadequacies. A down-to-earth understanding of the condition comes from a therapist who is sympathetically portrayed by Siobhan Marshall and as the story develops we begin to see Asperger's syndrome as an amplification of tensions we all feel.

The themes of the show are brilliantly reflected in director Sarah Brodie's exquisite choreography of a large and very talented ensemble while John Verryt's modular set and Tim Gruchy's triangulated video projections cleverly combine to suggest order emerging out of chaos.

The running time of over 2½ hours (including interval) takes us on a journey of humour and heartbreak that concludes with an uplifting affirmation that seemingly insurmountable problems will eventually succumb to a dogged commitment to taking small steps.

What: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

Where: Q Theatre, Rangatira to August 14.

- NZ Herald

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