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In Review: NT Live: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

John Freeman

The Play: Christopher, fifteen years old, stands beside Mrs Shears’ dead dog. It has been speared with a garden fork, it is seven minutes after midnight and Christopher is under suspicion. He records each fact in the book he is writing to solve the mystery of who murdered Wellington.

He has an extraordinary brain, exceptional at maths while ill-equipped to interpret everyday life. He has never ventured alone beyond the end of his road, he detests being touched and he distrusts strangers. But his detective work, forbidden by his father, takes him on a frightening journey that upturns his world...

The Review: It's no easy thing to nip to the National Theatre for the evening. Certainly not from Lancaster, when the cost of rail tickets and overnight stay are likely to cost you an arm and a leg. So the opportunity to see the much-praised The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, beamed live from London to The Dukes this week, was just too tempting to pass up.

The original novel is one of Britain's best-loved, and with a cast that includes Niamh Cusack, Una Stubbs and Spooks star Nicola Walker, you won't be surprized to hear the show is a sell-out success for the National, through to the end of October. And while watching the performance of a play on a big screen might seem a little odd, that certainly didn't seem to put off the good people of Lancaster – because this first Dukes airing of the show was sold out, too. (Luckily, if you missed it, there are repeat performances at the end of the month).

This was the first time I'd been to one of these plays-as-films events at The Dukes: but for those of us who recall with ever-increasing fondness television's once much enjoyed Play for Today and other theatrical-style presentations, watching this performance on a big screen may not have been 'the real thing' but it was so well shot that really didn't matter. Yes, you got those fourth wall breaks as cameras glided into shot to set up for the next take, and you saw the occasional audience member in the background: but none of these were any more distracting than going to any play in the round, which was how Curious Incident was performed. Well worth the price of admission (and cheaper than going to see it 'live', too).

As for the performance: this is a stunning adaptation of Mark Haddon's 2003 novel, which carried me through its entirety: funny one moment, jaw-droppingly heart breaking the next. The inspired use of light and sound to give the audience an insight into autistic Christopher's world (performed with breath taking precision and passion by Luke Treadaway) was impressive, the performances throughout a delight, as the young student struck out on a journey that for most of us would be easy, for him a white knuckle ride.

There were moments – such as his frantic search for his pet rat, in the path of a fast-approaching tube train - that had some audience members forgetting he was running around a hole in a stage down in That London. It was that remarkable.

I'd thoroughly recommend trying these National Theatre Live events at The Dukes based on this experience. It was a terrific night of theatre - without any of the travel nightmare (well, except for the nightmares that unfolded on stage!)

• Encore screenings this original broadcast will take place on Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th September 2012. More info here on The Dukes web site

More about the National Theatre show here