Reviews: The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time and Cheri

THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME, adapted by Simon Stephens from the novel by Mark Haddon. Presented.

THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME, adapted by Simon Stephens from the novel by Mark Haddon. Presented by the National Theatre at the Gielgud Theatre, London. Runs to June 18, 2016. Rating: NNN

CHERI choreographed by Martha Clarke, text by Tina Howe from Colettes novels. Presented by Clarke, Signature Theater and the Royal Ballet at the Linbury Studio, Royal Opera House, London. September 29-October 4. Rating: NNN

LONDON – Spoken text is only one way to reveal whats happening inside a characters head and heart.

Two productions I saw on a recent trip to London took very different paths to storytelling.

The highly praised production of The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time, adapted by Simon Stephens from Mark Haddons novel, looks at the world through the perceptions and experiences of Christopher Boone (Kaffe Keating, who shares the role with Sion Daniel Young), a 15-year-old who lives in Swindon and is troubled in his daily life hes somewhere on the autism spectrum.

Christopher is a whiz with numbers (especially prime numbers) and observational analysis but cant stand to be touched and doesnt understand the idea of metaphors he has to be taught not to take a phrase like he was the apple of her eye literally.

Discovering the stabbed body of a neighbours dog one night, Christopher determines to play detective and discover the murderer, though his father (Nicolas Tennant) tries to dissuade him from doing so. His biggest supporter other than his father is his teacher, Siobhan (Rebecca Lacey), who sets him the task of keeping a journal of his thoughts and actions.

In fact, over the course of the play Christopher has several mysteries to solve, including what happened to another family member, someone he goes to London to find.

Director Marianne Elliott and her fine design team (including Bunny Christie, Paule Constable, Finn Ross and Ian Dickinson) create a boxlike set that that simulates graph paper, on which various things can be plotted and projected and which contains surprising drawers and spaces that pop open or out as needed.

Visually compelling, it demonstrates how different Christophers perceptions are from the ordinary (that is, our own). But the design also defines his story too specifically, even though there are exciting episodes such as his confusion in navigating Londons hustle-bustle.

If youve read the book, youll remember that theres a richly open-ended quality to Christophers view of the world, something that every reader interprets personally. Here, though what we see is unusual, its all defined, specific and clear-cut viewers arent allowed to see the action from a different viewpoint.

Keating does some fine work as Christopher, especially in scenes with Laceys Siobhan, but ultimately we dont feel the emotions of the story so much as marvel at its striking design. That, for me, is not what theatres about. Ironically, there are moments when the characters wonder aloud what the story would be like if it were made into a play I wish the theatrical results were fuller, not just for the eyes and ears.

The Curious Incident, which premiered at the National Theatre before travelling to the West End, is also playing on Broadway, where it won five Tony Awards last spring. The New York production runs until May 1, 2016 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre.

Director/choreographer Martha Clarkes Cheri moved in the opposite direction, from New York to London, where it had a brief run at the Royal Opera House. Premiered in 2013, the hour-long show was inspired by a pair of novels by Colette Tina Howe provided the shows text. (Back in 1999, the late director Paul Bettis staged a version of the story for the Tarragon Theatre, a production that featured Jackie Burroughs.)

The title character (Herman Cornejo) is the son of Charlotte (Francesca Annis), whose best friend, Lea (Alessandra Ferri), a retired courtesan, has been the younger Cheris lover. Mother thinks its time to end the six-year relationship and engages her son to a wealthy woman closer to his own age.

The work is a dance-theatre piece, Lea and Cheri never speaking but revealing their changing relationship through movement, accompanied by the excellent pianist Sarah Rothenberg, who plays music by Ravel, Debussy, Poulenc and Federico Mompou.

As elegant and eloquent as Annis is, this show belongs to the dancers. Ferri and Cornejo, sexy, striking and impassioned, carry the story quite well on their own Ferri especially is lovely, lithe and initially playful, a dancer who knows how to act through her body. Theres almost no need for Charlottes comments and narration we can follow the action simply through dance.

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