Star rating: ****
Tuesday 6th January 2015
“Christopher, fifteen years old, stands beside Mrs Shears’ dead dog. It has been speared with a garden fork, it is seven minutes after midnight and Christopher is under suspicion. He records each fact in the book he is writing to solve the mystery of who murdered Wellington. He has an extraordinary brain, exceptional at maths while ill-equipped to interpret everyday life. He has never ventured alone beyond the end of his road, he detests being touched and he distrusts strangers. But his detective work, forbidden by his father, takes him on a frightening journey that upturns his world.
Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was originally published in 2003. It was the winner of more than seventeen literary awards, including prizes in Japan, Holland and Italy as well as the Whitbread Book of the Year Award in the UK in 2004.”
It’s oft said that curiosity killed the cat, but the big question of the night was who killed the dog and what on earth would possess someone to do that? I was curious to find out so took myself along to the Gielgud Theatre in the heart of London’s West End theatre land to find out.
In essence the show is about a teenage boy from Swindon, Christopher, finding his way in the world. His story is told via a relatively simple, seemingly straight forward who dunnit mystery about a dead dog, a teenage boy, his mother, father and a set of neighbours and other characters who come in and out of his life.
We see how this innocent, intelligent young man tries to figure out the mystery and at the same time grapple with adult lives, themes and stories, basically, a world he knows not of.
The Curious incident is an energetic, at times poignant, amusing tale, extremely well performed by a troupe of talented actors making the best use of a superb interactive, visually stunning set. The show is as much about Christopher’s lack of understanding of his world and events going on in it, as it is about figuring out the mystery for ourselves.
Christopher comes across as someone who is on the autistic spectrum and therefore, for example, has great difficulty and/or takes great delight in deliberately not following his father’s instructions and stubbornly goes about doing his own thing regardless of the consequences, of which he has no comprehension could ensue as a result of his own investigation.
This could get him and others into trouble and amongst a number of reasons, one is simply because many people don’t understand him. I think his father, though not displaying too many obvious signs of it, may well be on the spectrum himself and therefore understand his son better than most around him, which consequently helps with their positive and close father-son relationship.
The Curious incident is a highly engrossing, interesting and funny play, factors which have turned it into a smash hit in the West End and around the country.
On the night I attended, the audience was treated to the unexpected bonus of a post show Q&A session with some of the cast and the Director, Marianne Elliot. Marianne stated that the play’s author, Mark Haddon, didn’t purposefully make Christopher a character with autism and explained that it has just become widely accepted and attributed to Christopher that he does have autism. I think that’s interesting. If true, it’s hard to believe considering it’s widely promoted as about this. If true, it show shows how widely misunderstood and un-recognised a condition it is, especially when in high functioning people, which Christopher certainly was. Statistics indicate that 1 in every 100 people [UK] (1.1%) might have autism. (NHS, 2012).
The curious incident of the dog in the night-time (official trailer)
It’s something we see more and more of in popular television. Though I am not an avid follower of shows such as Celebrity Big Brother (CBB) it is apparent to me that certain people such as Ken Morley recently evicted from the current series for a succession of inappropriate comments and behaviour and last year’s winner, American Actor, Gary Busey, clearly appear to have traits of Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a condition on the autism spectrum. Amongst a number of unusual behaviour traits that go against the norm, they seemed to have great difficulty in interacting socially and normally with their fellow housemates; seemed not to notice or care that they are being ostracised and picked on and can be oblivious to why they became the focus of so much negative attention. This is something that was picked up by a sharp-eyed viewer of Celebrity Apprentice USA (2011).*
“Does anyone here have a doubt that the actor Gary Busey has Asperger Syndrome? He is on the show Celebrity Apprentice this year and he has all the behaviors of an Aspie. All the clear signs are there. He has extreme difficulty with socializing with others, he pisses people off even though he seems to have good intentions. He has difficulty communicating and conveying his feelings and thoughts, and the guy is just plan weird. I see a lot of myself in him and people react to him like they react to me. He is an extremely talented artist (actor) and was nominated for an Oscar in 1978.”
I think it would help if CBB re-introduced a resident Psychotherapist to analyse the goings on in the house and explain what is going on at a deeper level to the average viewer who will not recognise AS in certain celebrities and instead mock them as odd balls when really that is just the way they are wired. On a more practical level it would certainly be of benefit for stars displaying AS traits to be offered psychotherapy or counselling to assist them or to even first of all to get a diagnosis to ascertain whether or not they are on the spectrum.
Going back to the play, Christopher is 15, undiagnosed, clearly displaying AS traits and he would certainly benefit from getting a diagnosis and support in managing his peer and adult group relationships as he goes through his adolescent years and journey’s into adulthood. OK, that might not make for a West End hit, but perhaps there’s something in that for a follow up book.
If you’re curious to find out more and to find out what happens to Christopher, who killed the dog and why exactly they did so, I can highly recommend you go and see the play and/or read the book by Mark Haddon.
© Tiemo Talk of the Town
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1. National Autism Society – Autism
2. Recognising signs of Aspergers Syndrome