“Well, you never said anything about a dead dog…” the man behind us whispered to his wife in an accusatory tone. “Or a garden fork!” He had a point. The stage at The Theatre Royal has been graced with many things since it opened in February 1837, but a dead dog, pierced right through with a garden fork must be among the most bizarre.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time tells the story of a teenage boy, Christopher John Francis Boone, who describes himself as “a mathematician with some behavioural difficulties.” We are never told precisely what Christopher’s disorder is, but instead are invited into his world, where we can see ordinary things in a different and surprising way.
The story tells us about Christopher’s family, his mother and his father, with whom he struggles to connect. And about his neighbour’s dog. Who has been killed in mysterious circumstances. Circumstances which Christopher intends to solve.
The novel on which the play is based was first published in 2003. It was remarkable for a number of reasons, the first being that two issues of the book were published, one for adults and one for children.
The second unusual aspect was the author’s use of first person narration. The book opens with the lines, “It was 7 minutes after midnight. The dog was lying on the grass in the middle of the lawn in front of Mrs Shears’ house. Its eyes were closed. It looked as if it was running on its side, the way dogs run when they think they are chasing a cat in a dream.” The book also used prime numbers to mark its chapters.
Playwright Simon Stephens continued this bold and playful narrative style, allowing the characters to slip out of character and address the audience directly. This breaking of ‘the fourth wall’ of the stage allowed the actors to reflect on their scripts, on the characters they played and on the curious position they found themselves in.
With a few simple props: a train set; a desk; a chair and a stick of chalk, Christopher took us with him on his investigations. The stage became a suburban street, a crowded station, a silent exam room and, perhaps most memorably, a busy tube platform, complete with escaped rat and an oncoming train.
The stage play, adapted from the best selling novel, was brought to life with lights, choreography and pulsating music as Christopher made sense of the world around him. In the words of my daughter it was “A bit sweary Mum! And very fantastic.”
by Katherine Wildman © 2015
Katherine Wildman, Creative Director at Haydn Grey, www.haydngrey.co.uk. The friendly, professional and knowledgeable creative agency. Original writing, photography, web design and marketing to build your business. Let’s shake things up around here. Get in touch and say hello on 0191 289 3170. We’re registered with NBSL, so you could qualify for 40% off your new website, brochures or blogs.