The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night
I was spellbound. I walked out of the theatre tonight still walking as though I were on a grid. On graph paper. As though every step took me into a little boy’s mind, deeper and deeper until I was thinking like him. Speaking like him. I was stuck because I was so caught up in the character and the beautiful work of this play.
The play is about a boy named Christopher who finds his neighbor’s dog, Wellington, dead, stabbed to death with a gardening fork. So he decides he must go on a detective mission to find out who murdered his friend, Wellington. He doesn’t really understand humans, just animals. When Christopher finds out that his father is the one who killed Wellington, his entire life changes and he must go on an adventure to London to find his mother.
This story is about an autistic boy named Christopher who takes on the world by himself and empowers himself. But it’s also a story of how difficult it is to live in this world when one has autism… For me (who has worked a lot with autistic students and friends) I felt this play really portrayed Autism beautifully. It was never brought up much or referenced hard handedly. It was rather beautifully and subtly brought to light without anyone saying he had any form of autism.
[WARNING!!! From this point on, there will be a lot of spoilers. So take this as your SPOILER ALERT!]
These are a few images of the stage the actors worked on. The stage lit up in small circles, numbers, blasts of strobe lights in every color, and the walls opened up to reveal doors and windows, secret cubbies that hid some of Christopher’s prized possessions.
The marriage of people as props/set and technology as props/set left me awestruck and amazed. The incredibly deep stage gave the actors so much room to create smaller scenes in various places: bedroom, kitchen, London, flat, down the street, in the park, classroom, neighbor’s houses, the tube, a train station. And the floor pattern that they used often: the repetition of a grid. They walked along specific lines at 90 degree angles, like robots. It helped bring something to life for someone with autism. How life should be logical, straightforward, and simple.
Even though there was this amazing technology (as seen in the pictures above), the glory of the story was that the physicality of the actors created the set as well. They became Christopher’s house, doors. Door matts. Coat closets. Pet rats. They moved perfectly in time to create neighbor’s houses in just the nick of time or to help Christopher “become an astronaut.” The best part of the play for me was when Christopher was describing his desire to become an astronaut and so they illustrated what it would be like for him to be in a space craft. He jumped into the air and was caught by the other actors, moving as though he were in a zero gravity space craft. They moved beneath him, holding him in the air, flipping him, helping him careen off the sides of the craft. It was magical to watch.
I nearly cried when the model trains came to life. When the train began to move and the London Eye rose from the stage, the houses sparkled and the trees shimmered with fairy lights. I couldn’t help it. My eyes teared up and it was one of the most magical moments of the show.
A spellbinding show that will keep you on the edge of your seat, make you cry, give you anxiety, make you life, make you feel, make you feel more human than you have in a very long time. If you have the time, the money, and the emotional energy, I highly suggest getting yourself to Broadway (or the West End!) and seeing the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.