I know, theatre’s not hip anymore. But I can promise this show is.
Running steady since its first performance in 2012 is one of West End’s most loved shows, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. A pretty explanatory title, that: the scene literally opens on a dead dog with a garden fork sticking out of it. It’s then up to fifteen-year-old Christopher (played by Joshua Jenkins/Sam Newton) to unravel the mystery behind the killing of Wellington the dog.
Don’t be fooled by the title, though: this is a story about Christopher. The words “autism” or “Asperger’s” are never mentioned, leaving the audience with a sense of what’s going on, but no certainty whatsoever. The author of the book from which this play is adapted, Mark Haddon, has repeatedly denied claims that he wrote a book about autism: “It’s not a novel about a boy who has Asperger’s syndrome; it’s a novel about a young mathematician who has some strange behavioural problems.”
“Everyone has learning difficulties, because learning to speak French or understanding relativity is difficult.”
One of the points that this show makes lies in this not-so-subtle distinction. Probably having Asperger’s syndrome is not necessarily Christopher’s defining trait, because the audience is experiencing the world through his narration – and his eyes. And it’s a daunting world we experience: overflowing inputs, overwhelmingly loud music, and Christopher in the middle of it all, trying to make sense of the world around him.
The marvellous scenography (designed by Bunny Christie), consisting of a luminescent and cubic black box, is what ties the whole action together. Using nothing more than projections, lights, and a toy train, the cast can be seamlessly transported through the streets of Swindon or the London tube, as well as in the individual houses and rooms. Its perfectly geometrical structure anchors the audience into Christopher’s mathematical projection of the world.
The supporting cast also shines in providing the “adult world” acting as framework for Christopher’s narration. As you would expect, it’s no simple matter to decipher – especially if he takes every phrase at face value. “Metaphors are lies”, after all. And that’s just about everything I’m willing to spoil; the show is packed with surprises.
You will laugh, you will tear up, you will be entranced. But don’t take my word for it and go to see it yourself.
Tickets are available via the London Theatre website.