“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time” starts, rather shockingly, with 15 year old Christopher Boone (Connor Curren) stood over a dog that has been stabbed with a garden fork. What follows is a complete whirlwind of drama, that showcases not just a masterclass in acting but a huge technical and theatrical accomplishment.
The story follows Christopher who finds a dead dog and decides he’s going to try to solve the mystery of who killed him. Christopher is on the autistic spectrum - I don’t recall it ever being stated specifically what Christopher’s disability is, but it causes him to struggle to form connections with people and find difficulties in some of the most basic aspects of human life. It also means he is able to find beauty and patterns in objects and places that no one else would ever consider, giving the play a fantastical element as we explore the edges of Christopher’s imagination, such as taking his pet rat into space.
Whilst trying to solve the murder mystery, Christopher uncovers long-hidden family secrets (no spoilers here!) that take him on a journey, not just physically (the play moves from Swindon to the centre of London) but also emotionally, as he is forced to confront new and dangerous situations.
The play is not what I expected when I went to see it. I was expecting a straight-forward murder mystery aimed at children, and what I got was so much more. The depth of the characters, the way in which ASD was portrayed and the height of emotion in some of the scenes was simply breath-taking. On the night when myself, Paula and Elise went to watch, there were lots of school groups in. We were expecting the audience to be a bit rowdy. As soon as the play started, until it finished over 2 and a half hours later, the auditorium remained in complete silence, simply transfixed by what they saw on the stage.
The play uses a huge range of theatrical techniques, including physical theatre, as actors create parts of the set with their bodies, acting as doorways, chairs and trains, helping to move Christopher through the story. Many of the chorus play multiple roles, showing all the different characters that Christopher encounters on his travels. The set is made up of three walls and a floor that serve as a blackboard, allowing Christopher to scribble his notes all over.
Live animals, incredible sound effects (the programme informed me the play has 234 sound cues!) and superb acting from the cast (including Rebecca Root as Christopher’s teacher Siobhan and Tom Peters as Christopher’s dad Ed) made this an excellent show, and I would highly recommend to everyone, regardless of their age.
For more information on the UK tour of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time”, please visit https://www.curiousonstage.com/
Tom Morley, February 2022