Having read the book by Mark Haddon years ago, I was both excited and apprehensive to see The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. How could a piece of literature that deals with such complex and sensitive topics be successfully transferred to stage whilst still maintaining the true value of its story.
Mark Haddon does not have autism but his protagonist, Christopher, was so believable that if anyone had told me he was a real live person I would have believed it. And the play was just as convincing. Graham Butler brought Christopher to life in ways that the book could not. Not many people come in to contact with those who have autism but Graham Butler successfully gave Christopher a character with convincing body language and behaviours that the audience could learn from. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, as a play, takes on another dimension.
What makes the play interesting, in comparison to its literature counterpart, was the use of lighting and electronic images. Through the projection of numbers and fuzzy signals, on the walls that outlined the stage, the audience were able to visually understand the way Christopher’s mind works and the confusion he often feels. When reading Haddon’s novel, the reader only sees Christopher once he has broken through the confusion and managed to write his thoughts down. But with the play, the audience have a direct visual representation of Christopher’s confused mind. This isn’t to say that the play is better than the book. They are equally as intriguing, each using different methods to portray the same story.
The set and the props may have appeared simple, but it was immensely successful. The lack of changing backdrops helped to keep the focus on the character’s emotions and relationships. A more detailed set would have been distracting to the audience and simply was not needed as the story and actors were strong enough without the need for fancy frills. The use of props was also simple but incredible. Each actor had a white box which metamorphosed into several different objects from seats to suitcases. The use of such neutral props and set required the audience to use their imagination and completely engage with the story. It is definitely not a production that spoon feeds its audience, but instead encourages the audience to be active rather than passive.
The play cannot be described as a traditional piece of theatre. Instead it engages with the future by making use of visual electronics that weren’t to hand thirty years ago. Some completely oppose the idea of film and electronic imagery in theatre productions but, with the evolution of technology, it may be something that theatre-goers will need to keep an open mind about. Theatre without digital media is of course still excellent but for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, the enhanced use of technology was definitely a tool that added to the overall impact of the play.
The play is an intense must-see with one of the strongest casts I have ever had the privilege to witness. It is educational, insightful and unique. It is a play that takes its audience out of this world and it is only when one reaches the interval that they slowly begin to step back into reality.