Play of popular novel to screen live
Nicola Walker (Judy) and Luke Treadaway (Christopher) in the National Theatre's production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Photo by Manuel Harlan.

Like most people, Nicola Walker couldn't put down Mark Haddon's book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Similarly, as the mother of the protagonist in the stage adaptation, the British actress doesn't want the National Theatre's season to end.

"There have been times when I've done plays and I'm cracking bottles of beer ready for it to end but with this show we all just want to keep going," Walker says, over the phone from London. "We've got three weeks left and there's much talk and a lot of finger-crossing that we can do it for a bit longer somewhere else next year."

Adapted for the stage by Simon Stephens and directed by Marianne Elliott, who picked up a Tony Award last year for War Horse, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time has received rave reviews since it opened in London eight weeks ago.

Perth audiences will get the chance to experience the tale of Christopher, a 15-year-old boy with Asperger's syndrome who sets out to solve the mystery of who murdered his neighbour's dog, when the play is screened at Luna this weekend as part of its National Theatre Live program.

"I think the good thing about the play is it's really honourable to Haddon's book," says Walker, 42, best known for playing Ruth Evershed in British TV spy drama Spooks.

"Simon and Marianne have been mainly interested in telling Christopher's story and we are there to help tell it.

"There is something so beautiful about the play. By the end of the night people are crying and laughing and cheering for the boy, who is not an appealing leading man to begin with. He's difficult and angry and odd but by the end he's your hero."

British actor Luke Treadaway has garnered critical acclaim for his role as Christopher, who has an extraordinary brain and is exceptional at maths but is ill-equipped to interpret everyday life.

Unable to venture alone to the end of the road, he detests being touched and distrusts strangers - something Walker says was challenging for her and Treadaway to convey on stage.

"As a mum, the idea of not being able to use touch as a way of saying sorry to my son when I've lost it or telling him I love him by grabbing him, that was really difficult," says Walker, who has a six-year-old son, Harry, with her husband, actor Barnaby Kay.

"When I read the book I didn't really consider how appalling that is or what effect that has on his mum and dad, but with the play you get involved with Christopher's parents much more."

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time won the Whitbread Book of the Year in 2003 and has sold more than two million copies around the world. That it is as much loved by younger readers as it is by adults has also helped see a diverse group of people file through the doors of the National Theatre.

"The demographic is brilliant, it's what every theatre dreams of," Walker says.

"We've had a lot of people under 25 you don't normally get in a theatre and some really young kids too, which was a shock for me. I take my hat off to the parents who know their children well enough to know they can cope, because it's a pretty brutal play."

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time screens at !Luna Leederville and Luna SX Fremantle at 1pm on Saturday and Sunday.

The West Australian

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