A dog found dead in a garden just after midnight might not sound the most auspicious start to a play, but this is no ordinary adventure.
The National Theatre’s touring production of Mark Haddon’s best-selling novel is a remarkable piece of theatre, combining original and deliciously playful staging with an emotional and engaging tale.
Joshua Jenkins is a revelation as Christopher, a 15-year-old autistic boy that discovers the titular dog.
Originally accused of its murder, he pledges to investigate what really happened – triggering a series of events weaved around his father (played with impressive naturalism by Stuart Laing) and mother (a characterful Gina Isaac).
The ensemble cast, led by Geraldine Alexander as Christopher’s teacher and sometime internal still voice, is strong too – both in throwing instant caricatures and enabling the rich physical theatre.
Marianne Elliot’s direction and Bunny Christie’s design seamlessly mesh together to form a visual feast that takes in mime, dance, acrobatics, walking on walls, and a rapidly assembled panoramic train set – but all in ways that seem perfectly fitted to the action. It is technical tsunami, but there is not a gimmick in sight.
Central throughout is Joshua Jenkins’ controlled, masterful portrayal of Christopher. The demands the role places would tax an experienced actor; that he delivers so apparently effortlessly at such a young age is remarkable.
This is that rare piece that challenges all of your preconceptions of what theatre can be and leaves you absolutely delighted – and on your feet applauding.