Literature

REVIEW: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

One of my mother’s best friends is an avid reader, and throughout my childhood I often received books from her as a Christmas or birthday gift. Rather than gifting me with popular or well-known novels, she frequently gave me more obscure or less obvious choices. This was fantastic, as it enabled me to access stories that I would have never chosen myself in a book shop or in a library.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon was one of the texts I was given by our family friend. Reading the title, I was perplexed as to what the story may entail. As I began to read, I was lost in the straight-forward, comic nature of the story. I absolutely loved the narrator and main character, Christopher, and I thoroughly enjoyed the insight into his extraordinary mind.

Being a pre-teen at the time of reading the novel, autism wasn’t something that I was familiar with. Although it is not explicitly mentioned in the text, Christopher is very likely to have a form of autism – more likely Asperger’s Syndrome: he attends a ‘special’ school, he is explicitly literal, he struggles with his emotions and he is extremely talented at Mathematics. The book is not simply a story about disability: Christopher’s innocence is used to narrate the complicated lives of the adults in his world.

Christopher is 15 and lives with his father and his pet rat, Toby. He knows all of the capital cities in the world, although he has never been further than the end of his road on his own. When he finds his next-door neighbour’s dead dog, he takes it upon himself to become an amatuer detective and to solve the mystery of the apparent murder.

It is very difficult to continue with a synopsis of the story without giving away vital clues and information. The book has a twist that is evident to the reader well before it is apparent to Christopher, though this does not affect its enjoyment. The book is very easy to read, without being ‘simple’. Despite Christopher’s lack of empathy and capacity to feel emotion, the reader is likely to be filled with a range of emotions, from humour to sympathy, and possibly even sadness.

Although it has been around a decade since I first read the book, I was extremely excited to see in the underground a poster for the adaptation of the novel in the West End. I purchased a ticket for my mother and me, and we went to see the play on 22nd November 2014.

As with the book, I would thoroughly recommend this enjoyable and alternative play at the Gielgud Theatre in London. The theatre itself, with its rustic charm, is beautiful and only heightens the sense of enjoyment. I wouldn’t be the first reviewer to state that you really could hear a pin drop during the performance: the entire audience was emotionally drawn in to every aspect of the play.

The staging was unlike any I’ve seen before (though I must say, my experience of the theatre is somewhat limited). Simple, yet perfect, it really complemented the black-and-white nature of Christopher’s mind, with subtle flashes of colour. I can’t say I’ve experienced a production whereby I can feel such a sense of humour whilst being drained emotionally. Although (a bit like Christopher) I’m not a very ’emotional’ person, much of the audience was teary-eyed during the performance.

Again, to continue with further detail would only tarnish any possible experience of the play: I can only thoroughly recommend that you go to see it yourself.

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