The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

From Christopher’s Point of View   

The novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was originally published in 2003 to critical acclaim and became a best seller. The book is fascinating because it is written from the point of view of a 15 year old boy who apparently has a mild form of autism or Asperger’s Syndrome.  In the book, the boy solves the mystery of who kills the dog, and then writes a book about it.  The play, now on stage at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto, takes it one step further:  as part of the plot, he is asked to turn his story into a play, and so he does.  The audience gets to see that result.

The plot is interesting on its own, but presenting the story through the eyes of the autistic boy is fascinating.  This drama is not only a mystery story; it is a compelling look at a dysfunctional family and the relationships between the members.

Christopher, the 15 year old, lives with his father, who generally has patience with all Christopher’s idiosyncrasies. For example, Christopher hates to be touched, so instead of hugging, he and his father slowly and cautiously put their hands together.  When a neighbour’s dog is killed with a pitchfork, Christopher, even though he is uncomfortable talking to people, decides to interview the neighbours and find out who killed Wellington, the dog.  It’s a mystery to be solved, just like the books he reads.  His teacher, Siobhan, encourages him to write his own mystery book.  Unfortunately, there are several surprises, making Christopher believe his father has betrayed him.  I can’t reveal any more of the plot for fear of spoiling it.  His life is turned upside down, destroying the routine that calms him. As his world seems to unravel, Christopher and his family learn that he is more capable than they thought.

It makes for an engaging adventure story, but more gripping is the family dynamic.  As the relationships falter, our hearts break for Christopher.

Because the story is told from Christopher’s point of view, special effects are used.  Noise – a harsh din, clatter and general racket – is amplified when Christopher is upset.  The stage is a three sided box, with words projected on them, flying around and flashing.  Bright white and sometimes red lights flash, as if we were in Christopher’s distracting world. The set is minimal, but aptly reflects wherever Christopher happens to be.

This is a touring show from London, England, which is where the story and play are set.  The British cast present this fascinating look into Christopher’s life perfectly, and give us a very telling examination of life with a struggling family. The actors draw the audience into the emotional plot.  Credit goes to actor Joshua Jenkins for his portrayal of autism.  There are heartbreaking moments, and then moments of pride and joy with Christopher’s achievements. The story is reminiscent of the book and movie Flowers for Algernon. 

The plot is captivating and the presentation truly riveting, It is easy to see why it took seven Olivier Awards, including best new play in London’s West End in 2013, and five Tony awards, including best play on Broadway in 2015.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time continues with eight shows a week at the Princess of Wales Theatre, Toronto until Nov.19.  Call Ticket King 416-872-1212 or 1-800-461-3333 or visit www.mirvish.com for tickets.

Photo: Joshua Jenkins as Christopher. Photo by Brinkoff/Mogenburg

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Based on the novel by Mark Haddon
Adapted by Simon Stephens
Directed by Marianne Elliott
Performed by Joshua Jenkins, David Michaels, et al
Produced by National Theatre and David Mirvish
Princess of Wales Theatre, Toronto
October 11 to November 19, 2017
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

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