A dead dog lies in the centre of the stage, met with its deadly fate by a garden fork. Kneeling beside the dog is Christopher, a 15 year old boy with autism and he immediately becomes the prime suspect; however he didn’t kill the dog. He sets out on an adventure to find out who did, writing everything down in his own book.
Through his adventure, it comes to light who in fact did kill the dog, and his unique experience of the world. It’s a beautiful story of a young man’s view on life, and his complex mind. It also touches on subjects such as lying, family difficulties and how nerve-racking life can be at times.
The National Theatre’s production of the novel, produced by Marianne Elliott was thought provoking, intense and unique. The start of the performance was interjected with a documentary, showing rehearsals, and interviews with the directors, and Luke Threadway, who played the main character; Christopher. This was excellent! It gave an insight into how they rehearsed and their thought process as they developed the play.
They elaborated on the Autism Spectrum and their research they obtained beforehand. They worked with a charity called ‘Ambitious about Autism’; a national charity for children and young people with autism. The broad subject of Autism is very close to me, my brother has slight characteristics of Autism and therefore I related a lot during the play.
The staging was unique and clever. They performed in a rectangular, almost cube like stage which the audience surrounded. Every seat was a good seat; the stage was seen by all. It was very unconventional, but I liked it. I liked the fact you could see everything.
The flooring had lighting built-in, which was utilised throughout the play for a number of things like the scenery outside the window of a train, or the underground of a station. This was very effective seeing as they only had a small stage and limited props. The use of lighting was immense, it was used to show how Christopher’s brain worked, how numbers bombarded his mind and how he got lost in thoughts of the universe, stars and planets.
The detailing of Christopher’s mind is spectacular, every detail, every spec of information, insignificant to most, yet significant to him. The play is a complete reflection of his mind. It makes you dive deep down into his psyche and the little introverted world in which he lives.
The play was funny, not just laugh out loud funny, but genuinely witty without trying too hard. The humour helped balance out the tension and emotional disturbance during some scenes. The play brings up a lot of issues that are present today, things that we all relate to, even I became a little too familiar with some of the subjects which appeared throughout. I nearly caught myself crying at one very emotional moment during a rather intense scene.
Christopher’s discovery isn’t just his, it’s ours too. Anything new is a discovery; we all have this fear of the unknown. Christopher’s fear is much more real, and present. Being autistic Christopher is a very literal thinker. He dwells on the idea that acting is a lie, and that metaphors are lies. The irony was that the play was about lies. A deep lie, which would change everything to him, that would change his world, there and then.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was quite possibly the most thought provoking play I’ve ever seen, a play about a vulnerable young man in a harsh and confusing world who triumphs with courage and intelligence. It’s truly a real heart-warming tale and one that I would definitely recommend.
Words by Natasha Ward
Image from www.unadilla.org