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You can’t stop the boats: Sorry We Didn’t Die At Sea @ParkTheatre

Sorry We Didn’t Die At Sea by Italian playwright Emanuele Aldrovandi and translated by Marco Young, has made a topical return to London at the Park Theatre after playing earlier this summer at the Seven Dials Playhouse. In a week when leaders and leaders in waiting were talking about illegal immigration, it seemed like a topical choice . It also has one hell of an evocative title. The piece opens with Adriano Celantano’s Prisencolinensinainciusol , which sets the scene for what we are about to see. After all, a song about communication barriers seems perfect for a play about people trafficking and illegal immigration. One side doesn’t understand why they happen, and the other still comes regardless of the latest government announcement / slogan .  However, the twist here is that the crossing is undertaken the other way. People are fleeing Europe instead of escaping war or poverty in Africa or the Middle East. It’s set sometime in the not-too-distant future. There is a crisis causing p

Curious and sweet: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

It was an exciting and enjoyable opening night of the West End transfer of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time earlier this week. Not just because of the various well-known faces and fans of the cast in the audience, but this is an intelligent and emotional play that is hard to resist. While I missed its run at The National Theatre, you are swept up in the sensitive story of a boy with behavioural problems and his impact on the family. And there is a star performance from Luke Treadaway as 15-year-old Christopher Boone, a maths genius with Asperger's Syndrome.

Treadaway inhabits the character and draws out his sensitivities and his vulnerabilities. At times it is exhausting to watch. And as he is a bit of a star (alongside his twin brother), his female fans in the audience were quite excited when he takes his shirt off. The character may be fifteen, but the demands on the role require a pretty fit actor, so be prepared for audience members enjoying the sight of a well toned physique that may distract you from the story momentarily...

Adapted from Mark Haddon's bestselling novel of the same name, the story begins with Christopher's discovery of a neighbours dead dog. It had been speared with a garden fork and as he is nearby, he is under suspicion. In order to prove to others that he did not kill the dog he decides to become a detective, recording each fact he uncovers in a book as he gets closer and closer to the truth. In doing so he turns his world upside down. It is a simple story that is intelligently handled as it explores the impact Christopher has made on his family and also how the best intentions and actions from his family and neighbours lead him on his journey.

A simple black box set and a series of projections transform the stage into Christopher's room, his neighbourhood, the workings of his mind or his physical journey from Swindon to London. Other theatrical flourishes through dance, movement and lighting transport you to the seaside of years past or Christopher's struggle coping with everyday tasks that most people take for granted.

There are quite a few nods to the audience along the way, such as the teacher reads his book, tells him they have turned his book into a play, or interrupts the drama to remind him that the audience does not  need to hear all the details about how he solves his A level maths exam during the play, but that they could find out how he solved it after the curtain call (which he does so don't run off straight away)...

If there is one problem with this piece, it is that by updating it to the present day without mentioning social media, email and the like makes some of the story seem anachronistic. Still there is so much to enjoy about this play - from the acting, the staging, a very realistic looking dead dog with a pitchfork through it - it all makes for a remarkable night at the theatre. And (mild spoiler) there is a live rat and an adorable puppy to tug at the heartstrings... The warm fuzziness runs through to August. Note that Bristol Old Vic Theatre School graduate Johnny Gibbon plays the role of Christopher on Monday and Tuesday evenings... Not sure if he has a crazy fan base yet but no doubt there is time for that to develop during the run...

Photo credit: West End transfer production photo Brinkhoff/Mogenburg

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