Going to a Play – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

To my mind, people go to plays for different reasons. I’ve known of some who, having watched the movie version of it (such as Rabbit Hole), were curious how it could be performed and produced on a live stage. They wondered if the same kind of emotions, provoked in a cinema setting on screen, could stir the same when acted out live.

There are those who go to a play because of its star-studded cast, such as when Kevin Spacey was in town for Richard III many years ago.

And of course, there are those who go to a play simply because it is Shakespeare.

But when The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was in town, it seemed to draw a different crowd entirely: it managed to pique interest in everyone, even the non-theater goers. As far as I know, it was a full-house most of the time.

Playwright Simon Stephens says the production is “loyal” to the book, which I actually don’t agree with entirely.

In chapter 163 of the novel (the book is chaptered by prime numbers), Christopher narrates an exercise which he has had with his first teacher, Julie. It involves a tube of Smarties candies. Christopher is asked to guess what is inside the tube, which he has, of course, guessed that it is Smarties. Julie then revealed that it actually contains a red pencil.

Julie asked Christopher what his mother and father would guess, should they walk in at that moment. Christopher’s answer still is a red pencil. The purpose of this exercise reveals that Christopher has problems understanding things from another person’s point of view.

I find this insight into Christopher’s world interesting and crucial, as it sheds light on things concerning people who are autistic, such as Christopher’s reaction when he has found out that his dad is the murderer of the dog.

This, however, was a missing piece in the play. Stephens might have left it out due to time constraint; to have an entire novel played out in three hours is quite an extraordinary feat.

The novel was an enjoyable read; narrated in Christopher’s perspective, who was unreliable but honest. There were moments when I chuckled at his innocence and his fixation at certain things, such as not eating food that is brown or yellow in color. There were also scenes where I felt deeply sorry for him, where so many things are happening in his life yet he is completely oblivious because of his medical condition.

“I think art grows out of a place of discomfort,” says author Mark Haddon in his essay Music for Misfits. He thinks that the job of a writer is uphill most of the time, where “you get some fantastic views when you pause or when you get to the top, but the actual process can be tough.” It made me wonder how much discomfort Haddon had put himself through in order for Christopher Boone to tell his story.