NT Live: ‘The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night-Time’

(Google Images)


Marianne Elliott’s adapted stage play from Mark Haddon’s world acclaimed novel of the same name; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time tells the story of an autistic fifteen year old boy named Christopher Boone who attempts to solve the mystery of who killed his neighbour’s dog Wellington. Deciding to document his finding by writing a book about it Christopher unknowingly upturns his entire world which sparks his very own journey to the most disorienting place in the UK; London. Although the narrative focuses around Christopher and his autism, the play does not turn his disability into a commodity but creates an awareness of it by putting the audience through what he experiences. Rather than completely focussing on autism, the play’s main themes consist of the relationships surrounding Christopher and how they breakdown and rebuild.

The set is cleverly built as a box that represents Christopher’s mind processes, with words and numbers appearing on areas of the stage at several moments during the narrative. Additionally, light and sound is used to a great effect as a means to portray how autistic people can become confused and disoriented throughout. This is presented even more so through a form of physical theatre whereby the actors all carry, push and spin Christopher around during times of confusion and panic accompanying the routine with flashing lights and general loud noises from his surroundings such as trains halting and snippets of advertising while at the train station. However, sound was also used to a great effect when there was none. The silence made for more emotional scenes which also created a disturbingly awkward atmosphere after the volume of noise recently heard. Once again, these scenes allow the audience to connect to Christopher as well as emphasise the impact these scenes have on him.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time only consists of 10 cast members on stage that play a variety of characters, however the audience forgets this as the entire cast act their numerous parts realistically. Moreover, the audience themselves are thrown into the mystery of who killed Wellington and are deeply immersed into the mind of Christopher Boone as he travels through busy, loud places such as the London Underground to be able to notice the same actor play a different part. Luke Treadaway especially must be applauded for his excellent portrayal of Christopher as he does not simply present himself as the stereotype of an autistic boy but creates his own individual form of autism to a great quality.

Despite dealing with a rather heavy topic, the play also contains some light heartedness through its self-awareness as a play, with parts where Christopher claims something different happened than what the audience just witnessed on stage. However, there are a few comments that Christopher makes which leave the audience considering if it is alright to laugh since his autism is the crux of the humour. This is what makes The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time so significant though as the play relies on these social uncertainties to create a thrilling yet unconventional and informative stage play that leads the viewer into seeing the world from the eyes of an autistic fifteen year old.