London Theatre Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
| By Sandra Howell
Excluding musicals, this is one of the best plays I've seen this year. Why? The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time took my emotions on a roller coaster ride and also challenged my neurotypical thought processes, prejudices, and beliefs. If like me you have read the book you will be delighted with this intelligent adaptation. But you don’t need to have read the book to understand and enjoy the play. It is, arguably, better than the book in some ways; yes I said it.
It is a complete, and a sensory, experience. The production smartly uses multi-media, via computer technology for the visuals and sound which pulled me right into the maelstrom of confusion often experienced by those on the Autism spectrum.I applaud the variety of acting techniques and the clever set design employed in this production. But rest assured this is no Rainman. Due to the incredible cast, it is complex, nuanced, gentle, comical, heart-wrenching, disturbing, upsetting, thought-provoking, very funny and entertaining. All human behaviour is present. There was one point where I recoiled from the shock of the violence in a scene, even though the actor playing Christopher’s father was nowhere near Christopher, it was so well staged and acted it felt real. Authenticity runs all the way through it.
In another scene when Christopher is on the underground, I almost couldn't look for fear of what would happen to him, even though I've read the novel and know what happens. The brilliantly hi-tech set with its screens, lighting and audio is so fantastic that it’s as if I’m there. I am entirely in Christopher’s head so much so that I become distressed by the crowds making sudden and unpredictable movements, accompanied by loud noise, music and relentless data. I cried because I was so moved by a scene in the second half of the play, Christopher’s delight is so genuine and what happened seemed like the right thing for his father to have done. This is what happens when you experience Curious Incident- you get so sucked into Christopher’s world that you become invested in him, his father and the people in his life.
I am struck by the humanity of Curious Incident. It doesn’t shy away from showing how even the most understanding parents can make mistakes, and how many are just making it up as they go along. And when parents try to remedy their mistakes, like Christopher’s dad and to a lesser extent his mum, that gives you hope. I also want to congratulate this production for having a diverse cast, although I think this should be the norm.
Curious Incident is very educational, and not in a preachy way. I feel like I was guided through the life of an autistic teenager called Christopher. There is so much that is logical about Christopher’s perspective and so much that is nonsensical from a neurotypical view, that viewing human behaviour through Christopher’s eyes makes sense, especially if you take things literally. It also makes me realise that there is so much that I, as a neurotypical person, take for granted including using and interpreting social and facial cues. Curious Incident has caused me to reflect about how, before I was physically disabled, I never thought much about how the world is designed for the physically able, which can create physical obstacles, making it difficult for those of us who are physically disabled, to live and navigate the built environment. Similarly, the world is principally designed and built by and for neurotypicals who do not often think of neuroatypical individuals who may have difficulty navigating a world not built for them.
Unlike perhaps, the preceding paragraph, Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time does not lecture. It is truly entertaining, allowing you to run through the gamut of emotions and have a good laugh. Like the novel, I believe it teaches you to reflect on the lives of autistic people and how they may behave to try cope when everything gets on top of them. Hasn’t life got too much for many of us at some stage? Well, Curious Incident helps to confirm that what makes a difference is having the tools, networks and friends and/or family to help us through the maze.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is playing at the Piccadilly Theatre and is currently booking until 27 April. Book your tickets now to experience Christopher's incredible world.