Performing arts in Hong Kong

Behind the scenes of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and its unique stage set  

The National Theatre’s adaptation of Mark Haddon’s bestselling book, currently in Hong Kong, is a triumph of technology, precision and maths. We learn how the cast interact with complex LED lighting to depict the mind of a teenager with autism  

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 March, 2018, 7:00pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 March, 2018, 8:35am

What’s it like to be inside someone’s mind? That was the challenge for set designers working on the production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time to help the audience understand the main character Christopher Boone. It is being  staged in Hong Kong at the Academy for Performing Arts by Britain’s National Theatre until March 18 as part of the 46th Hong Kong Arts Festival. 

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time: lead actor talks about the role’s physical demands

The play is based on the award-winning book by Mark Haddon. Its star, Christopher, is a 15-year-old who is exceptional at maths, but has problems interacting and communicating with others.  In the production, the set is an extension of his mind, with the walls and floors like a grid. It is lit up with 896 LED lights that can be individually controlled.

The idea was conceived by Olivier and Tony Award-winner Bunny Christie, who was inspired by the Hollywood blockbuster The Matrix

“The grid is like a maths A-level paper showing time and space,” explains Kim Pearce, resident director of the show. “We borrowed it from A-levels, but now the book is a part of the A-levels curriculum.” 

Composer Adrian Sutton, who also worked on another National Theatre production War Horse, wrote the music for Curious based on prime numbers, because prime numbers are so important to Christopher.

The lighting on the stage moves quickly to reflect how Christopher’s brain moves. Joshua Jenkins, who plays the main character, explains how the actors must stand in the exact spot on the grid otherwise they won’t be lit properly. “It’s very rare to be part of play that is so tech-heavy,” he says.

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Since the show started in Hong Kong on March 8, Jenkins says local audiences have received Curious with enthusiasm, especially when it comes to Christopher talking about maths – a popular subject with students here. 

Jenkins says: “When Christopher talks about the equation, a squared plus b squared equals, the audience shouts out c squared! That doesn’t happen in the UK.” 

The production will head to China – Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou – after Hong Kong. 

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Lyric Theatre, Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. Until March 18, 7.30pm; Mar 17 and 18, 2.30pm. 

HK$300 to HK$580. Urbtix Inquiries: 2824 2430